Dirty rotten lies: Barack Obama and the madrassa smear

Remember that story, gleefully reported by FOX News, that Barack Obama had attended a madrassa in Indonesia for a couple of years as a child?

(I wrote about it here, Capt. Fogg here.)

Well, it seems there’s no truth to the story:

Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a “madrassa” are not accurate, according to CNN reporting.

Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam.

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child, from 1967 to 1971, with his mother and step-father and has acknowledged attending a Muslim school, but an aide said it was not a madrassa.


A Clinton spokesman has “denied that the campaign was the source of the Obama claim”. So who’s playing dirty here? The right-wing smear machine or the Clinton campaign?

Good job, CNN. I guess you’ve made up for that whole Obama/Osama thing.

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At Captain’s Quarters, sensible conservative Ed Morrissey calls the Insight story an “embarrassment,” yet another example of “single-sourcing” that “only belongs in gossip columns”. And he defends Obama from some of the criticism he has received from the crazies on the right: “It seems more than a little irrelevant what kind of school in which his parents enrolled him when he counted his age in single digits. Obama has not lived his life as a Muslim but as a Christian, and received most of his education in American public schools… He isn’t a stealth Muslim regardless of his middle name or his two-year attendance in a school in Indonesia.”

And, in this case: No one has offered “any proof that this information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign”.

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Madrassa (or madrasah, or madrassah, or any number of similar variations of that transliteration) just means “school” in Arabic, but it can also refer to an Islamic religious school. Some such schools are theologically and ideologically extremist, not to mention anti-American and anti-Western, in their teachings, but some on the right seem to view them uniformly as terrorist training camps.

Hence the intent of the smear: Obama was indoctrinated by terrorists and may be a terrorist himself. Crazy, of course, but some are just crazy enough to buy it.

For more, see here.

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Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Crooks and Liars has the CNN video. And puts the whole incident in context: “The only thing this story ‘exposes’ is the anatomy of a right-wing hit job: Conservative Insight magazine runs an unverified story that the minions at FOX News then cite to smear politicians they don’t like. And when it blows up in their faces, they claim they were just citing a source and wipe their hands clean. That’s how right-wing ‘journalism’ works.”

(Think Progress has more.)

And see this great post at The Anonymous Liberal. It’s a must-read with all sorts of background and context.

Back in the MSM, be sure to check out Howard Kurtz’s “Media Notes” at WaPo. (And Kurtz has more here.)