Obama wins apology over Muslim remark
20 December 2007
A backlash against attempts to smear the presidential hopeful Barack
Obama by suggesting he has Islamic connections claimed another
scalp on Thursday when a former senator was forced to apologise for
referring to Obama's Muslim heritage.
Bob Kerrey wrote to Obama to apologise for any insult he had
unintentionally caused by bringing up the Muslim link in the process of
endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. He told the Washington Post
that "I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that
his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim."
Later, the former Nebraska senator dug himself deeper into a hole by
adding: "I've watched the blogs try to say that you can't trust
[Obama] because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrasa.
I feel quite opposite. I think it's a tremendous strength."
Kerrey, who is president of the New School in New York, insisted that
he had meant the comments as a compliment. But he had
underestimated how highly charged any Islamic reference is in the
post-9/11 political world in general, and in connection with Obama in
The suggestion that Obama was himself a Muslim was first circulated
by the right-wing magazine Insight which is owned by the Unification
church, the Moonies. It was then recirculated as a "rumour" on the
front page of the Washington Post despite the fact that Obama is a
Christian and that the school he attended in Indonesia as a child is
In his apology, Kerrey said he meant no disrespect but accepted his
comments were insulting. The speed of his retraction underlines how
formidable the Obama campaign has been at protecting the senator
for Illinois from political attacks.
The Clinton campaign has already dismissed two workers in Iowa for
spreading the Muslim rumour. This month a senior Clinton aide
resigned after he mentioned Obama's youthful drug experiences.
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007
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