DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate Barack Obama has shown the power of the internet for political fundraising. Now he is fighting its darker side as a vehicle for “smears” against his White House bid.
Pausing from a war of words with Republican John McCain over taxes, the Illinois senator has unveiled an interactive website to debunk false rumours peddled by email and right-wing media outlets.
The site at www.fightthesmears.com was created after a recent, and so-far unfounded, assertion that Obama’s wife Michelle had been caught on tape slurring white people.
Obama’s new website was launched after reports, by conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh among others, that a videotape existed showing Michelle Obama using the derogatory term “whitey” in the couple’s former church.
No such tape has surfaced, despite frenzied speculation by right-wing pundits and blogs, and Obama last week decried the mainstream media’s attention to “dirt and lies.”
“We created an interactive tool to allow our supporters to fight back against these smears,” spokesman Tommy Vietor said. “People can upload their address books and easily send fact-based emails to their friends and family, ” he said. “Just knowing the truth isn’t enough — you have to proactively tell people the truth to fight back.”
Obama’s main campaign website already has a fact-check section to refute rumours, such as the claim that the Christian candidate is a secret Muslim. But aides said the new site goes further in inviting supporters to spread the word.
Political candidates have traditionally refused to acknowledge slanderous rumours for fear of giving them respectability. But given the slew of attacks spread by email against Obama, his campaign said it had to respond in kind by harnessing the “viral” power of the internet to add to his impressive online fundraising.
By going back to online donors who give little and often, Obama has set new records with a total take so far of $265 million (€172m), three times McCain’s funds.
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