Is CNN Perpetuating the 'Obama is Muslim' Meme? Chyron: 'W.H.: Pres. Obama Isn’t Muslim'

August 19th, 2010 7:04 PM

Every time the question about President Barack Obama's faith is brought up, the wizards of smart in the mainstream media get up in arms about "right-wingers" or "tea partiers" perpetuating those allegations. But is it possible that by devoting so much attention to these issues of Obama's faith and his citizenship, the media are creating the very feeding frenzy they're appalled by?

On CNN's Aug. 19 "The Situation Room," host Wolf Blitzer led his program off with at what first glance is a startling chyron: "W.H.: Pres. Obama Isn't Muslim". That graphic was in response to a recent Pew Research Center poll that found 18 percent of respondents thought Obama was Muslim.

Later in the program, Blitzer went to his panel - CNN political analyst James Carville and Washington Times columnist and Heritage Foundation fellow Tony Blankley. Initially Carville said he didn't have a clear explanation.

Video with partial transcript and commentary below fold

"I don't other than the fact people are just willing to believe anything or there are a lot of stupid people out there," Carville said. "I really don't have an explanation, just like I don't have an explanation for the fact that you see some of these polls that a quarter of the people believe he was born outside the country. I'm just as flummoxed as the next person."

Blankley cited an instance in 19th Century England, which people questioned the faith of British Prime Minster Benjamin Disraeli.

"I would compare it to what happened to Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister in the mid-19th Century," Blankley said. "He was suspected of being a Jew all through his career. His dad had been Jewish, but he baptized young Benjamin in the Church of England and he remained a practicing Christian with Jewish ancestry. I think it's a similar situation with Obama."

And according Blankley, although he didn't condone that belief, he suggested the same sort of circumstances were in play with the 44th President of the United States.

"His father was obviously Muslim and so that suspicious is there," Blankley continued. "And then I think -- what's interesting is the numbers have gotten worse for him since he's been President and I think some of his decisions, the outreach to Islam, good as it may be, wise as it may be, encourages some. His getting into a fight with the Israeli prime minister and his lack of attending church conspicuously, although Reagan, the President I worked for, didn't go to church much because he said it would interrupt the congregation. So, there are good reasons for it, but the public is going to think what it's going to think and he's not made it easier."

Carville wasn't buying it. Instead he just chalked the public up as "stupid" and willing to believe anything. He conflated the argument with questions about the President's birth certificate.

"I guess I would dispute, Tony -- I don't think the public thinks," Carville said. "How can they think he wasn't born in the United States, I mean with two birth announcements in both Honolulu papers. Again, I don't have an explanation, and the quality of information to people today is exponentially higher than it was in 19th century England. But again you've got to assume some people are just willing to believe anything and some people are out and out stupid. I wish I had a better explanation for it."

Despite the explanations (or lack of) from esteemed panelists, it's possible the media themselves are to blame. By consistently using questions about Obama's faith and his citizenship as fodder to demean conservatives, specifically the Tea Party movement and thereby creating a general mistrust by saying vile things, have the mainstream media perpetuated the very allegations they are abhorred by?