Elections

Book: Clinton Volunteers Spread Obama ‘Muslim’ Rumor

Kerry Picket Political Reporter

Although Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton laughed off claims that her 2008 presidential campaign started the rumor during the primary that then Sen. Barack Obama was a Muslim, evidence shows otherwise.

A March 19, 2007 strategy memo authored by Clinton campaign chief strategist Mark Penn discussed Obama’s “lack of American roots.” Penn first says

“His roots to American values are at best limited,” Penn wrote. He then suggested he “cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking an his values.”

“Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches and the values. He doesn’t. Make this a new American century,” Penn wrote.

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Additionally, co-authors of the 2010 political best seller “Game Change,” John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, said, the rumor did not start with Republicans either but with Clinton volunteers.

Heilemann and Halperin wrote that one of Clinton’s national co-chairs, Billy Shaheen, husband of former New Hampshire governor and then Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen, gave an interview to The Washington Post on Dec. 13, 2007 and brought up Obama’s electability in relation to his past cocaine and marijuana use, which was referenced in Obama’s own book “Dreams From My Father.”

“Republicans are not going to give up without a fight,” Shaheen said, “and one is his drug use.” He added, “It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'”

“Obama tried to brush off Shaheen’s insinuations as garden variety cheap politics,” according to “Game Change.” “But it hadn’t gone unnoticed by him that two Clinton volunteers had been caught forwarding emails suggesting that Obama was a Muslim with vague connections to jihadists trying to destroy America.”

“Things seemed to be taking a turn for the ugly and he and Michelle were certain it was no accident,” the book continued. “Obama’s brain trust agreed: Shaheen was acting as a puppet for one or both Clintons.”

Politico reported in October 2007 that a South Carolina Democrat originally sent the email to its reporters.

Clinton defenders will say that the individuals at fault were not Clinton campaign staffers — just volunteers. Clinton told CNN’s Don Lemon Wednesday that the suggestion her campaign started the birther movement is “ludicrous,” and that she and the president never had any “confrontations” pertaining to that.

“You know, this is such a bad example of what’s wrong with the instantaneous reactions and Americans getting all worked up and people feeding prejudice and paranoia like Donald Trump,” she said.

The two lowly Clinton volunteers walloped quite a political punch, when it came to the art of an online whisper campaign. The rumor became so rampant all over the Internet, the Obama camp had to buy an anti-rumor Google ad to attempt dispel it, Politico reported in January 2008.

The “Game Change” authors also wrote, “The Clintons talked about Obama’s drug use with some regularity in private, citing it as another example of the willful failure of the press to vet Obama. Why are they giving him a free ride on this? Why isn’t it out there?”

“Hillary’s reaction to Shaheen’s remarks was, ‘Good for him’ Followed by ‘Let’s pus it out!’ Her aides violently disagreed, seeing what Shaheen had said as a PR disaster. Grudgingly, Clinton acquiesced to disowning Shaheen’s comments.”

“By March of 2008, Clinton was asked by CBS’ 60 Minutes if she thought Obama was a Muslim and she responded, “I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn’t any reason to doubt that.”

She added, “There’s nothing to base that on, as far as I know.”