Obama fights smears with website

Democrat presidential hopeful Barack Obama has taken the unusual decision to fight back against internet rumours and innuendo being spread by his opponents.

Instead of opting for the traditional American electoral tactic of ignoring the jibes he has set up a special website to deny them.

Mr Obama, the first African-American to win a major party’s nomination for the White House, faces problems new to US presidential politics in a country burdened with a history of racism.

The Obama campaign appeared to be trying to anticipate a flurry of expected attacks from Republican-allied non-profit groups, known as 527s after the section of the US tax code that governs them. They can raise unlimited amounts of money for television adverts not controlled by campaigns.

Such groups did heavy damage to the 2004 presidential bid of Democrat John Kerry by questioning his military service in Vietnam and denouncing his criticism of the war when he returned home.

Both Mr Obama and Republican John McCain are running on pledges of changing the highly partisan atmosphere in Washington that has frequently slipped into gutter politics.

The top item on the new Obama site, www.fightthesmears.com denies a persistent claim that Mr Obama’s wife, Michelle, used the word “whitey” in a talk she once gave at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

The Obamas recently resigned from the congregation after it became a repeated source of embarrassment for the campaign, beginning with revelations of inflammatory remarks by Rev Jeremiah Wright during his years as pastor.

Here’s the lead item on the new website:

“Lie: On May 30th, Rush Limbaugh (the right wing talk radio host) said he had heard a rumour that a tape exists of Michelle Obama using the word ”whitey“ while speaking from the pulpit.

“Truth: No such tape exists. Michelle Obama has not spoken from the pulpit at Trinity and has not used that word.”

An Obama campaign spokesman said the candidate could no longer stand silent as “dishonest smears spread across the internet unanswered. Whenever challenged with these lies we will aggressively push back with the truth and help our supporters debunk the false rumours floating around the internet.”

The site also denied claims that Mr Obama is a muslim, that he attended a radical Islamic primary school when living in Indonesia and that he took the Senate oath on the Koran.

The web posting says the truth is “Senator Obama has never been a muslim, was not raised a muslim, and is a committed Christian.”

The website also attacks allegations that his writings on race and religion are radical, saying that quotes from his book used in an email “are alterations, deliberate manipulations, and in one case, an outright fabrication.”

Emails about Mr Obama rank second on the list of “Hottest Urban Legends” on snopes.com, an internet rumour-debunking site, behind email greeting cards that could expose computers to viruses.

Michelle Obama has often been the target of conservative attacks, prompting Mr Obama to demand his rivals “lay off my wife.” Much of the criticism came from her comment that her husband’s campaign had made her proud of her country “for the first time,” a remark that inspired a Tennessee Republican Party web video questioning her patriotism.

There also have been more insulting attacks, and not just limited to the internet.

The Fox News Channel recently labelled her as “Obama’s baby mama,” a term that originated as urban black slang for a woman who has a baby with a man who is not her husband or her boyfriend. The channel also raised the inflammatory suggestion that she gave her husband a “terrorist fist jab” when they bumped knuckles in congratulation the night he clinched the nomination.

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