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Obama Addresses E-Mail Lies

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the MSNBC/Nevada Democratic Party presidential debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15. (Reuters)

By Peter Slevin
LAS VEGAS -- Before turning to questions about the economy, NBC anchor Brian Williams asked Illinois Sen. Barack Obama about several virally circulating e-mails that falsely asserted that Obama is secretly a Muslim, took the oath of office on a Koran instead of a Bible, and refuses to say the pledge of allegiance.

Obama laughed and said, "First of all, let's make clear what the facts are."

Obama reiterated that he is a Christian and was sworn in with his hand on a Bible. He pointed out that he not only says the pledge, but sometimes leads the pledge on the floor of the Senate. But in the Internet era, he said, "there are going to be lies."

Obama is familiar with questions about his race. He was asked at a rally in Carson City, Nev., on Monday night whether a black man can be elected president.

He is also well aware of the incendiary e-mails that misrepresent his faith and attack his patriotism, though tonight's forum was the highest profile event at which he has been asked to address them.

One e-mail that circulated in New Hampshire and elsewhere declares that he not only refuses to recite the pledge of allegiance, but he "turns his back to the flag and slouches." The same one says Muslims intend to destroy the United States and "what better way to start than at the highest level -- through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!"

Obama said the American people are smarter than the skeptics give them credit for. He pointed out, as well, that the e-mails circulated in Iowa and New Hampshire "and we did okay there."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 15, 2008; 10:34 PM ET
Categories:  The Debates  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Michigan: Romney's Victory Speech
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Wow, grichardson1 -- are you saying the ONLY reason someone would not vote for Obama is because he / she is a RACIST?! That's quite a statement, if you are saying that . . .

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

It was good to see a civil debate tonight - as opposed to the last one.

All three did well.

Barack Obama for President of the UNITED States.

Posted by: PulSamsara | January 16, 2008 2:45 AM | Report abuse

To Geonerd20:

If, in fact, the American people are so racist that they cannot vote for Obama, a candidate who can truly heal this nation, then they will get the president that they deserve and four to eight more years of partisan division and politics as usual.

Posted by: grichardson1 | January 16, 2008 1:35 AM | Report abuse

sarasalvania, if you saw how SCHIP actually works in practice (even before Bush's attack on it), you wouldn't celebrate it so much. Hillary completely misread the politics of the situation back in the '90s, and thanks to her bumbling, our country missed a prime opportunity to move toward universal health coverage.

Posted by: greener_pastures | January 16, 2008 12:22 AM | Report abuse

I want to be honest here, i support Barack Obama and i was impressed,he did better than the debate in New Hampshire, overall, Hillary wasnt upfront on some issues and a little bit evasive but she didnt appear mean and nasty, so i would say, she did ok, John Edwards was equally good.If i were to say,who is the real winner,id say all the candidates debated with class and i hope in the near future, when we get over the racial issues debated earlier,the candidates can talk more about policies and how they will help Move America forward.

Posted by: unclefole | January 16, 2008 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Obama will win the democratic nomination. Polls will show obama with a lead over the GOP nominee in the national elections. On election day, America will suddenly remember that Obama is black. We will wake up the next morning to learn that yet another white male will occupy the Whitehouse for at least another 4 years.

Posted by: geonerd20 | January 16, 2008 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Earlier today a neighbor forwarded an email to me that claims that Obama refuses to pledge allegiance to the United States, refuses to place his hand over his heart as the flag passes. "Photos don't lie," this neighbor said, "this has to be reported in the news NOW," knowing that I support Obama and hoping that I will see the light and bow to Clinton. The "truce" tone of tonight's debate was predictable but I was surprised when Brian Williams spilled the beans that the virulent email I received was just one of thousands or millions that are circulating like seweage everywhere. It all reminded me of a story from Bill Clinton's years as governor of Arkansas, when he told his top advisors to circulate a sleazy story about an opponent. Horrified, a staffer said, "But it's not true." "I know that," Clinton said, "but I want to hear him deny it." Obama showed class in rising above that level, and Hillary was predictably demure in not quite disowning the slime her surrogates have been circulating but the fact remains that the dirty work served its purpose. But if the ability to manage staff is as she says a necessary qualification for president, her handling of surrogates tells us a lot about what her presidency will be.

Posted by: ajclayton | January 16, 2008 12:12 AM | Report abuse

A completely different Clinton than last debate!

She look devastated, rigid, giving too long answer, too much calculated... mmm weird her face language... her gaze was down too much... maybe she just had a bad day...

Edwards did well, relaxed, nothing to lose... I liked.

Obama did extremely well! I think he was the most focused, clear, concise, relaxed and even in good spirits!

Posted by: JpAcosta | January 16, 2008 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Obama was a stutter machine, stutter like that debating John McCain or even Romney and you'll have another George Bush in office only they will look like McCain or Romney.

Posted by: nibaizi | January 16, 2008 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Both, Hillary "La Senora Amnistia" Clinton, and Barack "El Senor Amnistia" Obama,are supporting Amnesty for however many 20+ million illegal immigrants, minus the criminals, that are in our country, with the invasion still going on.

That's just what we need to really fix our failing economy. Low wage, poverty level, illegal immigrants, taking jobs from Americans.

According to a study by the Heritage Foundation, an illegal immigrant family of four, costs American taxpayers, $20,000, and that's if they pay taxes, otherwise they cost us $30,000. Those free benefits, we provide them, are killing us.

CA has a 14 billion dollar state budget deficit. CA also has 4 million, or so, illegal immigrants.

Americans, wake up!!

Posted by: buzzm1 | January 15, 2008 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Post-debate update:

Before the debate another Democratic candidate got all spun up trying to drive a wedge between Barack Obama's inspirational message and politics of hope and the examples of JFK and Martin Luther King.

However, Obama's efforts yesterday and today to bind up the wounds of a bitterly divided Democratic Party actually bring to mind the example of another American icon: Abraham Lincoln.

Today Hillary tried her own brand of the politics of fear by suggesting that she, by dint of her purported "experience," was the safest bet on the Las Vegas stage to confront Queda.

However, Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald showed how what might have been perceived as the Great Emancipator's serious shortcomings as a war president and commander in chief actually turned out to be some of his greatest assets.

Remember, Lincoln came to the presidency having only meager experience--much less than Sen. Obama's--in public office, let alone experience in the Executive Branch or in the military.

According to Donald, Lincoln was also fortunately unburdened by convention, precedent, and standard operating procedures in facing war's challenge. He was also a quick study who grew into greatness through trial and error in pursuing the most significant of his goals.

Lincoln also knew democracy's ancient lessons. When Cicero finished speaking, the people said, "My, how well he spoke." But when Demosthenes finished speaking the people said, "Let us march!"

"Public sentiment is everything," Lincoln noted. "With it, nothing can fail, against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions. He makes possible the enforcement of these, else impossible."

Obama, the Democratic Party's great healer, is the only candidate the party has who can attract sufficient independent and Republican votes to get this country moving again.

Si, se puede (in any language)!!!

Posted by: Martinedwinandersen | January 15, 2008 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Hillary was exposed tonight in my eyes..and I've wondered a long time about who she really is. It is my belief that she may become a valuable Senator for New York state. But she is not a leader of people, she is a repeater of the words penned by others. There is not a single phrase that comes to mind from her that is original. Less kindly put, she is a butterfly, though she can be a valuable servant as she matures. Her first hand knowledge is very shallow.
It is Barack Obama who has the unique gift to inspire and lead as well as a deep background of Constitutional law that is necessary to right the country.

Posted by: hrayovac | January 15, 2008 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Good performances by all three tonight.

Posted by: larrylegatesiii | January 15, 2008 11:56 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post fact checker (
had this to say about Clinton's Cheney Energy Bill statement:

2005 Energy Bill

Hillary Clinton slammed the 2005 energy bill as the "Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill," saying that it had "enormous giveaways to oil and gas industry." In fact, according to a paper by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the 2005 bill provided for $2.9 billion of tax increases for the gas and oil industry--against $2.6 billion of tax cuts. That resulted in a net tax increase to the industry of "nearly $300 million over 11 years," according to the CRS report.

Posted by: jgkoomey | January 15, 2008 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Edwards was the most convincing. Get this Obama says "POTENTIALLY, middle income voters maybe exempted from increases in capital gains taxes" typical language couched in lawyerese which doesn't commit him to anything. Obama and Hillary spewed this garbage all night. Edwards was sincere and spoke in absolute terms that will get a person elected in a general election. Obama and Hillary sounded like george bush with their $250 rebate checks and empty promises.

John Edwards!

Posted by: nibaizi | January 15, 2008 11:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm for Obama, but I gotta say, let's make "shrill" the new "articulate." Stop calling women shrill. Our voices have higher pitches, if we talk fast or become emphatic, they go up even more. Deal. In that respect, I will say to Hillary, go girl. We're here, we're shrill, we're not going away so get used to it.

Posted by: kparrparr | January 15, 2008 11:53 PM | Report abuse

"And she completely botched her one big effort on health care."

To Greener_Pastures: Please realize that even though we didn't get universal health care back in '92, we did get SCHIP, which practically provides universal healthcare to all children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and who don't earn enough to afford private insurance. To Hillary's credit, when she saw that the political atmosphere would not accept universal health care, she still tried to figure out a way to provide health care to those who need it most, and those are the children!

Give Hillary some credit! I know a lot of kids who wouldn't be insured were it not for that program. This is why experience and a track record matters!

Posted by: sarasalvania | January 15, 2008 11:52 PM | Report abuse

OK, so Sen. Obama replied to lies circulating via e-mail. Good for him and for the political process.

Now, could you please do your job and give us a little information about how the debate went?

Posted by: sweetwtrbay | January 15, 2008 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Winner: Barack Obama was funny and gracious in moving past the race issues. He was more substantive than I have seen him in previous debates by far.

Edwards: generally good debater and displayed passion.

Hillary: sounded shrill at times which makes it difficult to listen to her. She also seemed evasive at times.

Loser: NBC moderators. The first several questions were terrible. Glad the candidates ignored them as much as possible.

Posted by: bluevoter | January 15, 2008 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination. He will do it by incorporating the same strategy that has made him successful to date. Barack can , and will, build a very strong consensus comprised of all groups. He will not appeal to the radical gays, the fundamentalist individual, the hard core feminists or the racists. What he will do is establish broad appeal among people of all persuasions that understand the idea of a nation that realizes that we are stronger when we work together to establish real change in the world. Hillary Clinton is a great American
and Bill was a great President. That time is past. It is time to move forward to a fresh candidate that does not have all the political baggage, that will motivate the ravenous right to fight real change tooth and nail.

Posted by: eSPO1 | January 15, 2008 11:44 PM | Report abuse

What has Hillary ever managed? She hasn't even been able to keep her husband in line. And she completely botched her one big effort on health care.

Posted by: greener_pastures | January 15, 2008 11:38 PM | Report abuse

P.S. When I say substantial issues facing the USA today, I'm not saying race issues aren't an issue - I mean fanning idle comments made during the campaign that obviously don't lie where the candidates hearts and minds are.

Posted by: kylerobertson | January 15, 2008 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Why oh Why does the media fan the fire of the race issue? It was obvious all candidates wanted to talk of substantial issues. In that regard, I felt HRC was the most articulate and specific about what she planned on doing, so her leadership showed. Obama was charming, but I'd have to agree with an earlier post that he did seem confused at times and did keep saying "I'd bring the smart people together to figure this out" rather than proposing a solution himself (not altogether wrong, but highlighting some experience and the 'judgement' he often talks about would have been nice - the General Election won't let him get away with that).

Posted by: kylerobertson | January 15, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Obama was the most substantive, precise, and presidential. Edwards didn't do bad either. But I thought Hillary was far too wonky, evasive, and tired-looking; she easily lost this one.

Posted by: jwilkins40 | January 15, 2008 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Everything that Clinton says is so calculated, so obviously scripted. If she wins, we're looking at another presidency marked by spin, bombast, and no real achievements. At least Bill was entertaining. Hillary is such a school marm.

Why didn't Obama or Edwards take her on? When she pulled that stupid "will you co-sponsor my resolution on Iraq" gambit, why didn't Obama say, "Yeah, it's too bad you weren't so concerned about what Bush might do when you voted to allow him to invade Iraq"?

Edwards seemed like the only authentic, courageous one tonight.

Posted by: greener_pastures | January 15, 2008 11:19 PM | Report abuse

I did not know that Obama had voted for the 2005 Energy Bill that the Bush/Cheney/OIL-lobbyists had pushed for.

Posted by: jligayaj | January 15, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Hillary won. Obama seemed totally confused.

Posted by: princeps2 | January 15, 2008 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Democrats Debate in Las Vegas

Who Won the MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas?


Posted by: jeffboste | January 15, 2008 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama was fantastic tonight. Not only was he relaxed and composed, but he answered the questions forthrightly. A good night for Edwards and Hillary was off her game and clearly flustered to anyone that understands non-verbals and understands political communication. Obama was simply presidential.

Posted by: quisdabeast | January 15, 2008 11:04 PM | Report abuse

No real winner tonight, but Obama didn't fare as well.

Posted by: parkerfl | January 15, 2008 10:58 PM | Report abuse

He's handling this situation with a lot more humor and overall class than I would be able to if I were him. I wonder if Hillary was/is sympathetic at all...

Posted by: bokonon13 | January 15, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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