Contradicting prior reporting, AP said Obama attended Muslim school as a child

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

In a February 11 article, the Associated Press reported that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) spent "his childhood years in the Muslim faith" and that "Obama's religious background has come under scrutiny because he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10." The article, which contradicts the AP's own reporting, as well as Obama's statements, follows the discredited claim that Obama attended a madrassa in his youth, an allegation first made in an article by InsightMag.com.

As Media Matters for America noted, the AP reported on January 24 that "[i]nterviews by The Associated Press at the elementary school in Jakarta found that it's a public and secular institution that has been open to students of all faiths since before the White House hopeful attended in the late 1960s." Moreover, Obama attended that school for two years, according to his autobiography, after which he went to a Catholic school.

A separate version of the AP's article, which appeared later that day, featured a different lead paragraph, reporting that Obama spent "his childhood years in a largely Muslim country," as Obama has himself said, and did not characterize his religious background as having "come under scrutiny."

The report containing the falsehoods about Obama's background did not appear in a Nexis* search and appears on only two media websites that Media Matters has found, while the alternate version appears on the websites of several media outlets as well as in the Nexis database. Nevertheless, the right-wing blog Little Green Footballs (LGF) trumpeted the false article on February 11 and cited it as evidence that "the Associated Press actually admits that Barack Obama was a Muslim in his childhood." In the post, LGF added that the false article "does raise a rather uncomfortable question for a man who wants to be the commander in chief of the United States," and that the "penalty under well-established shari'a law for apostasy -- leaving Islam -- is death."

LGF echoed comments by conservative talk show host Lee Rodgers, who said on the January 19 edition of KSFO's Morning Show that Obama may be a "death target" because of the revelation that he was born the son of a Muslim. The LGF entry was subsequently posted on other right-wing blogs. After the AP disseminated the version of the story that had corrected the inaccuracy, LGF said the article had been "quietly edited" and asked: "Is it a correction, or an attempt to whitewash Obama's record?"

Blogger Allahpundit had a different take on the two versions of the AP story, which he expressed on Michelle Malkin's weblog Hot Air: "Is this another case of AP whitewash being applied to a story in which Islam figures prominently? Nah, probably not. I think it's a simple case of them having made a mistake and then trying to slip a correction in under the radar. According to Obama's communications director, he's never been a Muslim. Nor is there anything quoted in either AP article to suggest that he admitted to having been raised Muslim during their interview with him."

From the AP's first February 11 article:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think voters have a litmus test on religion, whether evangelical Christianity or his childhood years in the Muslim faith.

"If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know that I'm a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Ultimately what I think voters will be looking for is not so much a litmus test on faith as an assurance that a candidate has a value system and that is appreciative of the role that religious faith can play in helping shape people's lives," he said.

In the interview, Obama also said his race might be a "novelty" this early in the presidential contest, sparred with the prime minister of Australia over Iraq, and said he has a higher burden of proof with voters because of his relative inexperience. Obama formally announced his candidacy in Illinois on Saturday and made a beeline for Iowa, site of the first nominating contest next Jan. 14.

Obama's religious background has come under scrutiny because he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather from 1967 to 1971 and subsequently returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.

Obama attends a Chicago church with his wife and two young daughters. The 2008 presidential field also includes Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., an evangelical Christian who converted to Catholicism in recent years.

From the AP's corrected version:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think voters have a litmus test on religion, whether evangelical Christianity or his childhood years in a largely Muslim country.

"If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know that I'm a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Ultimately what I think voters will be looking for is not so much a litmus test on faith as an assurance that a candidate has a value system and that is appreciative of the role that religious faith can play in helping shape people's lives," he said.

In the interview, Obama also said his race might be a "novelty" this early in the presidential contest, sparred with the prime minister of Australia over Iraq, and said he has a higher burden of proof with voters because of his relative inexperience. Obama formally announced his candidacy in Illinois on Saturday and made a beeline for Iowa, site of the first nominating contest next Jan. 14.

Obama, who was born in Hawaii, lived in mostly Muslim Indonesia with his mother and stepfather from 1967 to 1971. He subsequently returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.

He attends a Chicago church with his wife and two young daughters. The 2008 presidential field also includes Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., an evangelical Christian who converted to Catholicism in recent years.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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