A great deal of electronic ink has been spilled this past week about the recent Pew poll where about 1-in-5 Americans said they thought Obama was a Muslim. Everyone is asking how this happened and what could the White House have done differently to prevent it?
In hindsight most anything can be done better, but anyone who has been following national politics should know Obama is a prayerful Christian. He doesn't wear is faith on his sleeve (or as a chip on his shoulder), but he rose to national prominence with a speech that was perhaps most known for its focus on faith. And he has not shied away from speaking very publicly about how the resurrected Christ is his Lord and Savior when the situation was appropriate. Some point to the fact that Obama worships at camp David instead of a DC church, but neither George W Bush nor Reagan went to church on Sundays while they were in the White House so that can't be the explanation.
So where is the confusion coming from? The misunderstanding many Americans have about Obama's faith is not an accident or something that just happened naturally. It is the result of a widespread and constant misinformation campaign by Fox News and right wing bloggers and radio hosts.
These pundits are bearing false witness and sowing seeds of doubt about a fellow Christian who also happens to be their President, and they should be ashamed. Of course, Fox and others will argue they are just asking questions and they can't be held responsible for the statements made by their guests or people they are interviewing.
But anyone who has been through high school knows how the rumor mill works: "I've heard from several people that Susie hooked up with Melissa's boyfriend last night. I don't know if that's true or not, but she did have that crush on him in 7th grade, and I saw her heading into the parking lot with him after the game. She says she didn't, and I'm not going to contradict her, but it does make you wonder..."
Or put another way:
Hannity guest Brigitte Gabriel: "President Obama was born into the Islamic faith. Raised as a Muslim as a child . . . I cannot speak on what god he prays to in his private space," but "all the signs show that he has a very soft spot for the Islamic world."
Fox and Friends: " The fact that his father was a Muslim, he was raised as a Muslim for awhile, and went to a madrassa school in Jakarta." - Steve Doocy "There is some reports that Wahhabism was the curriculum there, which is a problem because they start with "We hate America" and work their way back from there." - Kilmeade
Fox News' Special Report graphic asks of Obama: "Islam or Isn't He?"
Washington Times' Jeffery Kuhner: Obama is a "cultural Muslim."
Fox's Bill O'Reilly: "What is clear to everyone is that President Obama was soft, almost subservient to the Muslim world."
Fox's Glenn Beck: Obama's comments show "contempt for the Scriptures."
Limbaugh: There is "confusion over the identity of Imam Obama." "Obama says he's a Christian, but where's the evidence?"
And if you want more, Eleison has put together a series of Talking Points on the Pew study along with pages and pages of this sort of cowardly half-truths and misinformation.
All of these public statements are overlaid and lend credibility to a coordinated and sinister mass email campaign that spreads even crazier allegations and "facts," which people find all the easier to justifying forwarding to friends after hearing Hannity or Limbaugh or the latest Fox and Friends show.
What the Pew survey shows is the danger posed to our Democracy by news organizations that are driven by a partisan or ideological agenda instead of a search for the truth. And lest we get too high on our horse blasting Fox News, our side has started down the same path. Fox and the GOP may be worse, but when the American people start only getting news and information from those willing to twist the facts to match our world view, our entire system of governance is at risk.
The 4th Estate and reporters and editors who care about the truth need to wake up to what is happening. Bloggers and independent journalists need to rise up and demand accountability (even of those on our side). And all Americans need to hold our news organizations accountable. Because folks, if Fox News and the right wing blogs and radio pundits can get 20% of Americans to believe a lie about the President of the United States , what else is possible? It's the stuff of dystopian novels, and it should scare the hell out of all Americans.