The Lie That Won’t Die

by Dan Quinn

Remember when we told you how Cathie Adams, when she served as head of the far-right group Texas Eagle Forum, arrogantly questioned the religious faith of President Obama? Today we saw a perfect example of why that kind of religious bigotry continues to make the political rounds.

The far-right website OneNewsNow — “the day’s stories from a biblical perspective” — has a new post that recycles the long discredited claim that President Obama is a Muslim:

“Since before he was elected, controversy has stirred over the extent of President Obama’s ties to Islam. During the campaign, he spoke openly of both his Muslim upbringing and his adult conversion to Christianity. But now two major Middle East media outlets — Nile TV International and Israel Today Magazine — are reporting that the president has admitted in recent months that he is a Muslim.

Those outlets say that Obama, in a one-on-one meeting earlier this year with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, told Gheit that he was still a Muslim, the son of a Muslim father, and the step-son of a Muslim step-father; that his half brothers in Kenya are Muslims; and that he was sympathetic towards the Muslim agenda.”

Good grief.

Barack Obama — either as a candidate or as president — has never said he was brought up as a Muslim and converted to Christianity from Islam, as OneNewsNow implies. He has said he was brought up in an essentially secular household and joined a Christian church as an adult. In addition, as Media Matters for America reports, the reports noted by OneNewsNow offer no evidence beyond hearsay to back up their claims.

And “the Muslim agenda”? Actually, the point of such phrasing — like “the gay agenda” or “the feminist agenda” — is to suggest some dark plot that threatens everybody else. It’s a calculated smear designed to play on fear and bigotry.

OneNewsNow’s story quotes this fringe right-wing blogger and media celebrity Pamela Geller. As we reported last month, Geller is kind of an Ann Coulter with even less restraint and shame, and she has a number of fans in far-right Texas circles. OneNewsNow writes that Geller sees the absurd claims that President Obama is a Muslim as “further evidence of Obama’s sympathetic tendencies towards those who mean harm to the U.S. and his intent to reshape America’s religious foundation.” (That’s similar to Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar’s claim in 2008 that Obama sympathizes with terrorists who want to destroy America.)

It would seem hard to believe that these whackadoodles are taken seriously by anyone. But then we see people like Cathie Adams — who has expressed her own doubts about President Obama’s Christianity — become head of the Republican Party of Texas (although she lost that spot at the GOP’s state convention last weekend). In addition, a October 2008 poll showed that 23 percent of Texans believed Obama was a Muslim. Moreover, a poll less than two years later — just this past spring — showed that 57 percent of Republicans nationwide think the president is Muslim. And in May far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education insisted that references to the president in new social studies curriculum standards include his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. (Board members compromised, listing his name as Barack H. Obama.)

Remember all this the next time you hear religious-righters claim that they are somehow victims of religious persecution.