A much-discussed poll suggested last week that nearly one-in-five Americans erroneously believe President Obama is a Muslim. The White House was even forced to put out a statement affirming Obama's Christian faith. While the reason for this misconception is unclear, there's no shortage of people on both sides of the political aisle who have explicitly embraced the falsehood or sought to expand its currency. Just this week Todd Herman, the new communications director of the Republican National Committee, suggested on Twitter that Obama might be a Muslim — a tweet that was quickly deleted and labeled "errant." But Herman has plenty of company in helping to perpetuate the myth. Here are some of the more prominent offenders:
Rev. Franklin Graham, televangelist
What he said: "I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim," said renowned evangelist the Rev. Franklin Graham, when asked about Obama's faith on CNN. "The seed of Islam is passed through the father." Graham went on to acknowledge that Obama had converted to Christianity, and added: "That's what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn't."
What critics said: ABC News called it a "seemingly lukewarm endorsement" of Obama's Christian faith. Others were less kind. "In a follow up question, John King asked Graham if the sky was blue," joked Michael Scherer at Time. "Graham said the sky used to be white, but if it is presenting itself to be blue now, well, he has no reason to contradict it."
Kim Lehman, GOP official
What she said: The Iowa Republican national committeewoman tweeted last week that Obama "personally told the muslims that he IS a muslim. Read his lips." Lehman refused to walk back the statement, telling the Des Moines Register: "[This] isn't about me. Call the President... Say 'are you a Christian or not?'... If I'm wrong, I'm more than happy to say, 'Oh I'm wrong.'"
What critics said: "No one in the official GOP tent... has fully embraced the rumor. Until now," said Sam Stein at The Huffington Post.
Tom Ganley, candidate for House of Reps.
What he said: When asked by Roll Call if he believed the rumors about Obama's religion, the Ohio Republican House candidate replied: "I don't have a position on whether he's a Muslim." He later clarified his response: "According to the White House, our President is a Christian and I have no reason to believe otherwise."
What critics said: "The President's biography isn’t something that someone 'takes' a position on," said ModernEsquire at Plunderbund. "There are facts, and then there are smears. And given the opportunity to take on the smears, Ganley first chose to play ambivalent."
Laura Ingraham, radio host
What she said: Filling in for Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News contributor said it "seemed a bit odd" that Obama went to the gym on Christmas Day. "It's the reaching out to the Muslim world, talking about the great Muslim contributions to the world, having all this Muslim outreach in Cairo," she added. "But then when it comes to your own faith, you can't find a church or a church is too unconvenient [sic] to go to... people put it all together in their minds, it's not one thing it's a bunch of things."
What critics said: Ingraham "seemed to consciously avoid stating that [people who think Obama is a Muslim] were wrong, and instead, listed the reasons that they might believe the President is a Muslim," said Jon Bershad at Mediaite.
Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader
What he said: "The president says he's a Christian. I take him at his word. I don't think that's in dispute," the Senate minority leader said last Sunday on "Meet the Press."
What critics said: McConnell's statement in support of Obama was described as a "dog whistle" by Politico. The phrasing suggested "that the debate over Obama's religion was legitimate," said Sam Stein at The Huffington Post. This will only "further spur claims that the GOP doesn't mind having this image of Obama spread."
Cathie Adams, state GOP official
What she said: The former Republican Party of Texas chair tweeted a video link suggesting Obama is a Muslim plant installed by the Saudi royal family. "Is Obama a Muslim?" she added. "What does that mean for the USA?"
What critics said: Texas Republicans are "really, really, REALLY lucky" Adams is no longer their state party chair, said Richard Dunham at the Houston Chronicle. "They escaped a big spin problem."
Hillary Clinton, Sec. of State
What she said: During the 2008 presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton was asked if she thought her rival candidate was a Muslim. "Of course not," she began, before adding, "there's nothing to base that on. As far as I know."
What critics said: "Her denial seems something other than ironclad," noted Ben Smith at Politico. Time's Joe Klein went further: "Clinton disgraced herself by playing into these innuendos."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- In defense of family dinner
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
- Do you need to be crazy to be the best?
Subscribe to the Week