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Sweet column: Obama attack unfounded. Clinton wrongly accused.

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Barack Obama's week-old presidential campaign has been hit with a smear. Hillary Clinton's White House bid, launched Saturday, has been attacked with an unfounded accusation.


Contrary to what was reported in Insight magazine and then repeated on Fox News and in other news outlets, including a column that ran in the Sun-Times by free-lancer Mark Steyn, Obama was not educated in a radical Islamic school when he was an elementary student in Jakarta.

And there is no evidence whatsoever that Clinton's campaign had anything to do with spreading the damaging rumor that Obama hid a Muslim background.

The source for both slurs started in a report posted on the Web site of Insight, a conservative magazine published by the Washington Times. The article with no named sourcing alleged that researchers connected to Clinton dug up information about Obama as part of a "background check."

Over the past few days the story bounced around the blogosphere and then spilled over to other conservative outlets.

Let's set the record straight.

Obama's U.S. mother, divorced from his Kenyan father, married an Indonesian she met at the University of Hawaii and moved to Jakarta in 1967, when Obama was 6.
He wrote in his memoir, Dreams from My Father, that he was educated in Muslim and Catholic schools there.

Obama reflected about his life in Indonesia in his second book, The Audacity of Hope.

CNN sent senior international correspondent John Vause to Jakarta to visit Obama's elementary school, which he attended between 1969 and 1971. It is clearly not the sort of school that breeds violent fanatics.

The pictures show boys and girls at the state-run Basuki School wearing blue and white uniforms taught by men and women wearing Western dress.

It is located in a wealthy Jakarta neighborhood, located down the road from the home of the U.S. ambassador. Vause described the school as "probably better off than most."
"This is a public school. We don't focus on religion," Hardi Priyono, the deputy headmaster, told CNN. "In our daily lives we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment."

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the episode was not damaging to Obama's campaign but was "a black eye on journalism" because it "shakes people's faith in the truth."

I asked Gibbs if he thought Clinton's camp had anything to do with this and he said, "I don't."

Last year, at the end of a trip to Africa, Obama said he planned to visit Indonesia in 2007.


12 Comments

Ms. Sweet,

Thanks for calling out Mr. Steyn on his role in the smear attack on Senators Obama and Clinton.

But can someone at the Sun-Times explain why that baseless allegation was allowed to see print? What hold does Mr. Steyn have over the decision-makers at the Sun-Times? Are columnists permitted to write anything they want -- regardless of its merit, its nature or its truth?

It seems that the Sun-Times could have avoided having its name associated with this vile smear by picking up the phone, calling D.C. and asking, "Lynn, does this rumor about Obama and Clinton pass the smell test to you?"

The Sun-Times role in this bigoted smear-job is embarrassing -- but even more embarrassing is how easily it could have been avoided.

Anyway, thanks again for setting the record straight.

-- SCAM

Thank you for exposing the recent bigoted attacks on Senator Obama for the lies that they are. These completely unsubstantiated charges-- which have been proven to be nothing but a shameless right-wing "hit job"-- were designed as a cynical attempt to torpedo two Democratic campaigns by appealing to our basest instincts and whipping up religious bigotry at a time when feelings on this subject are already raw. In l960, another young Senator, John F. Kennedy, was also viciously attacked by those who hoped to fan the flames of religious bigotry and derail his presidential campaign. In a speech he made before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September of that year, Kennedy said that attacks on his religion were a distraction from the real issues which should decide the campaign: "And they are not religious issues--for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers." He said that what was important was "not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in." And he spoke of an America that has a clear and absolute separation between church and state, and "where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice" and where people of all religions would "refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood." This, he said, was the America he had fought for in World War II, and the America that his older brother Joe had died for in that same war. He said that he believed in "a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office." And, speaking of the personal attacks made on him by his political adversaries-- who charged that his religious beliefs would make him unfit to serve as President of the United States-- Kennedy added this warning, which is proving remarkably prescient: " For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril."

Let's hope that we heed President Kennedy's warning and judge Senator Obama as he should be judged: on his stance on the real issues of this campaign, and his suitability to be President of the United States at this, another "time of great national peril". I have no doubt that if he is judged on those bases, Senator Obama will fare very well indeed.

For more information on the smear job, may I suggest folks read "Rev. Moon's Anti-Obama Agit-Prop," by Robert Parry? The entire article may be viewed at: http://www.consortiumnews.com/2007/012207.html

I realize Mark Steyn is freelancing, but I hope the Sun Times will discontinue its association with this person and no longer publish his articles.

How could people suggest Hillary's camp was behind this...she will be much more ruthless than this.

It is this kind of trash that turned me off from voting for any Republican. And I seem not to be alone in this decision. We Americans are sick of it, regardless of the party affiliation.

Kudos for your article today! It's just too bad it wasn't on the front page. I was one who received an Email with a copy of the report that had been published. I'm glad you tracked down the source and made it public. It's too bad that whoever wrote it wasn't big enough to sign their name! When will they learn that he who slings mud also gets it all over themselves?

Thanks very setting the record straight! This kind of smearing must be faced down immediately so that no one will be swift boated like John Kerry and have an honorable person's image destroyed by these cretons.

be sure and read the second post, after article and the words of JF Kennedy. so true for today's climate. sap

Gee I'd love to read this article but there's a GIANT FREAKING AD in the way. I realize nothing is sacred anymore but the Holy Dollar (all hail), but donchya think this is just a little ridiculous?

thanks for the article.. it is so sad that they're trying to attack obama just because he lived in Indonesia and attend an indonesian elementary school which happens not to be a religious school at all!

it's good to know that his early education was actually in indonesia as we all know how important is your early upbringing and how it could certainly affect your objective and vision to the world around you.

I hope his close ties with Indonesia would open the public eyes and wouldnt only associated indonesia with terrorism and islamic radical. There are still so many other things to explore rather than those 2 things.

I cannot believe the Sun-Times fell for it in the first place. Steyn should be fired. Journalism doesn't need black eyes such as this; journalism is already discredited nearly completely. But, consider--if it were not for CNN, which did the journalism you should have done in the first place, it would have--once again--been left to bloggers to tell the real story, which was the corruption and insidious laziness of so-called "mainstream" media. Which of course, is no longer "mainstream" at all, but extremist corporatism at its core. Shame on the Sun-Times; you deserved it despite your clarification.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 23, 2007 6:46 AM.

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