On Thursday's "Political Points" podcast, hosted by Sam Roberts and Sheryl Gay Stolberg and joined by national political correspondent Jeff Zeleny, financial correspondent Floyd Norris, and national correspondent Kate Zernike, the panel reacted to a Pew poll stating that 18% of Americans now think President Obama is a Muslim. That's up from 10% during the campaign. The reporters respond by accusing Americans of gullibility and Rush Limbaugh of spreading misinformation. And financial writer Floyd Norris reacted to a Forbes cover story criticizing Obama by comparing it to Republican dirty tactics in...1934.
Host Sam Roberts: "It is pretty remarkable, isn't it, that people, however you describe them, can persuade twice the percentage of the American public that someone belongs to a different religion than they actually do. Does that mean people are so gullible, or what?"
Jeff Zeleny: "I think it means that a lot of people are getting their information from, sort of, one segment of the media. There's no secret about the fact that a lot of commentators talk about this all the time. Rush Limbaugh talks about it all the time, some commentators on Fox News do, so you know, perhaps it's a bit of a surprise. But the president has not done many outward things to, sort of, remind people that he's a Christian, if you will. He doesn't usually attend religious services. He doesn't wear his, sort of, religion on his sleeve, but if I may make a prediction, and it's based on discussions with some people in his orbit, and it's before he is on the ballot himself, I think we'll see him in more religious settings, more of the time."
Limbaugh has admitted to playing with the media ("the media tweak of the day," as he referred to it in a broadcast last month), mocking the press's hypersensitivity on the matter by using terms like "Imam Obama." But to say he talks about it "all the time" is definitely an exaggeration.
As for spreading misinformation about politicians, it's safe to say the Times never got this bothered over Democrats who thought Bush had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Later in the podcast we learned that financial correspondent Floyd Norris didn't much like Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes cover story on Obama, dipping back 75 years to think of a similar destructive trend.
Floyd Norris: "One thing that struck me about this campaign has been the virulence of the campaign. We saw a cover story in Forbes this week basically questioning whether Obama is a real American. I went back and looked, and it's remarkable how similar the campaign was to the campaign in '34, when the Democrats were running in a mid-term election after Roosevelt had defeated Hoover. The chairman of the Republican National Committee compared Roosevelt to Hitler, which was not quite as negative then as it is now but was very negative. They called him a socialist, they called him an anti-American, they said he was trying to destroy the Constitution. Much of the rhetoric we're hearing now was tried out then, and then it didn't work, whether it will work now I don't know."
If Norris was so concerned about comparing presidents to Hitler, he didn't have to go back to 1934 - any time between Bush's election in 2000 and his retirement in 2009 would have brought up many cases of Democrats comparing Bush to Hitler, and the prominent Democrat personages Howard Dean and Al Gore referred to Bush policies as "un-American."
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