In a February 9 entry in the New York Times political weblog The Caucus, reporter Kate Phillips linked to Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen's February 9 article on Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), excerpting a section in which, as Media Matters for America documented, Allen falsely suggested that Obama has been dishonest about the origin of his name, asking, "Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili?"
From Phillips' February 9 entry on The Caucus:
Mike Allen, formerly of The Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine and now at The Politico, jumps in early with this post today, foretelling the scope, the microscope, under which Mr. Obama will find himself:
The charismatic Illinois senator has enjoyed a lifetime of hagiography, starting with an 800-word story in The New York Times the day after his election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
Now, Obama's about to endure a going-over that would make a proctologist blush. Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili? Why did he make up names in his first book, as the introduction acknowledges? Why did he say two years ago that he would "absolutely" serve out his Senate term, which ends in 2011, and that the idea of him running for president this cycle was "silly" and hype "that's been a little overblown"?
Watch for more. The coverage will obviously get more intense, as he gets flyspecked like other candidates who have been out there a lot longer.
As Media Matters and others including blogger Brad DeLong noted, Obama's first name derives from both languages. According to Yale University's Kamusi Project -- the "Internet Living Swahili Dictionary" -- the Swahili word "baraka," meaning "blessing," is derived from the Arabic word "bariki." According to a January 12, 2004, Copley News Service article: "In an interview last week, Obama said he decided to call himself Barack -- a Swahili derivative of Arabic that means 'blessed,' as 'baruch' does in Hebrew -- after his father died."
Media Matters also noted that Allen claimed one of Obama's "big vulnerabilities" in the 2008 presidential race is "his frank liberalism in a time when the party needs centrist voters," citing Obama's support for same-sex civil unions. Allen ignored recent polling that shows majorities of Americans and "Independents" support either same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions.