What happened
The Washington Post’s ombudsman promised to review the newspaper’s decision to publish last week a story about rumors that Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama was a “Muslim plant” in a plot against America. The Post’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, said the story failed to tell readers plainly that a central part of the smear—that Obama once attended a madrassa—was false.

What the commentators said
“The Great American Smear is back,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration). “As always, the smears play to the ugly underside of American politics: prejudice and hatred.” In 2000, it was John McCain who was targeted—with rumors that he had “fathered a dark-skinned child out of wedlock.” Now as before, “presidential candidates of both parties have a duty to denounce not only the smear against Obama but the bigotry that underlies it.”

Let’s hope all the yelling pays off, said Greg Sargent in Talking Points Memo’s Horses Mouth blog. The Post story—which basically recycled “Obama-is-a-Muslim” rumors first covered by FOX News—has already been criticized by two of the paper’s own reporters, and it’s nice that the ombudsman is weighing in. Maybe the next time they report on this the Post’s editors will do more than reprint Obama’s denials, and mention that the “recycled” rumors are false.

This garbage is “too demonstrably false to survive endless reruns even in the Swift-boating era,” said Frank Rich in The New York Times (free registration). The truth is that “despite the thuggish name-calling of a few right-wing die-hards” many conservatives are “disarmed” by Obama’s charm and his message of hope, and there’s no sign they “would remotely know how” to counter him if he took his party’s nomination.