Reporters Julie Bosman and John Broder gave Barack Obama defenders a boost on Friday with "Obama's Campaign Opens a New Web Site to Strike Back at 'Dishonest Smears.'"
Called Fight the Smears, the website was apparently inspired by rumors, evidently unfounded, that a tape exists of Obama's wife Michelle ranting about "Whitey" at the pulpit of the radical Trinity United Church of Christ, which the Obamas attended for 20 years until Barack Obama came under fire for theanti-American raving of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Showing early signs of a bad habit, the Times strongly implied that the rumor originated with conservative bloggers, even though all evidence suggests that it first broke in the blogosphere in mid-May at the blog of a Hillary Clinton supporter.
Confronted with one of the trickiest problems in politics - when to ignore rumors and misrepresentations and when to risk giving them greater visibility by rebutting them - Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign began to push back aggressively on Thursday against what it said were unfounded and potentially damaging reports.
Bosman and Broder lamented how Obama
"...has been dogged by potent, fast-moving rumors about his religion, his birthplace and his patriotism, to name a few, for more than a year. More recently his campaign has confronted persistent but unsubstantiated reports about Mrs. Obama using angry and derogatory language about white people.
But the final straw for Mr. Obama, his aides said, was the story circulating on conservative blogs that a video existed showing Mrs. Obama making a racially tinged speech at their former church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
Mr. Obama was visibly irritated by the rumor when a reporter asked him about it last week.
"It is a destructive aspect of our politics right now," Mr. Obama told reporters last week as he flew through Virginia. "And simply because something appears in an e-mail, that should lend it no more credence than if you heard it on the corner. And you know, presumably the job of the press is to not go around and spread scurrilous rumors like this until there's actually anything, one iota of substance or evidence that would substantiate it."
The Web site devotes its most prominent space on the home page to that rumor. "The Smear," it begins. After describing the smear in a point-by-point fashion it concludes, "The Truth: No Such Tape Exists."
Hate to break it to the Times, but this rumor first appeared on Hillary supporter and (liberal loose cannon) Larry Johnson's blog No Quarter back on May 16, a full two weeks before the Obama site's timeline showing that Limbaugh mentioned the rumor on his radio show. (Johnson has previously vouched for serial misleader Joe Wilson's credibility and defended the falsehood that Karl Rove had been indicted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.)