CNN aired Kenyan saying of some Americans about Obama, "[T]hey don't want someone who is closer to Islamic"; failed to note Obama is Christian

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

In CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee's report about Kenyans' reaction to the New Hampshire Democratic primary and its impact on the presidential candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama, CNN aired a video clip in which an unidentified man "on the streets of" Kenya said: "[T]here are some people who say they don't want him [Obama] because ... they don't want someone who is closer to Islamic." But Verjee never noted that Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim.

During the 2 p.m. ET hour of the January 9 edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Kyra Phillips aired a video clip of State Department correspondent Zain Verjee's report from Kenya purporting to show "what one man had to say on the streets" of Kenya about Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (IL), in which the man said: "There are some people who say they don't want him because he's a ... not even a black. They are saying they don't want someone who is closer to Islamic." When Phillips asked Verjee "what he meant," she responded that "a lot of them were saying that because he was African-American most Americans would not actually end up voting for him as president," but Verjee did not note that Obama is not Muslim.

The Obama campaign website notes that Obama "has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ."

A longer version of the same report in which the unidentified man said, "They are saying they don't want someone who is closer to Islamic," also aired on the January 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, without comment by Verjee or host Wolf Blitzer on the "Islamic" reference.

From the 2 p.m. ET hour of the January 9 edition of CNN Newsroom:

PHILLIPS: Well, I know you've had a chance to talk to a lot of people in Kenya and they're already reacting to the New Hampshire primary and Barack Obama because his relation to Kenya. Here's what one man had to say on the streets that you caught up with.

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4: There are some people who say they don't want him because he's a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: A black man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4: -- not even a black. They are saying they don't want someone who is closer to Islamic.

[end video clip]

PHILLIPS: Tell me what he meant by that. And what -- what did others say to you within that group?

VERJEE: Well, a lot of them were saying that because he was African-American most Americans would not actually end up voting for him as president. Some of the other things that they said, too, was that they got up in the wee hours of the morning, which is really around 4 or 5 a.m., to watch the results of the New Hampshire primary.

They said by and large they were disappointed that it was really a step back for Obama in this instance, but they didn't count him completely out of the race. They also said in that particular group that maybe the election there -- that the polls were rigged.

You know, Kenya itself is facing a big debate and a lot of tension, because Kenyans themselves believe that the latest election was rigged. So that was what everyone had on their minds, Kyra. We had a good laugh, and they're watching the race really closely and they're all looking forward to Super Tuesday.

From the January 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

VERJEE: Barack Obama is Kenya's favorite son. Probably more than any other country in the world, Kenyans are tuning in to see if he is going to win the race for the White House. They woke up in the wee hours of the morning and they were following the New Hampshire primary really closely.

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: I woke up at 4 a.m. to watch the primaries in Hampshire. He was a few thousand, 2,000 points, below Clinton and I felt sorry. I kept on hoping that he would catch up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE#2: It's only one setback but he will still going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #3: It was rigged. It was rigged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Rigged. They tried to rig it back.

VERJEE: But it's not Kenya. There's no rigging going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: There is -- the United States, there's rigging. There's rigging even in U.S. Even in England, there's rigging.

VERJEE: So you think he lost because there was rigging?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: There was a lot of rigging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4: Actually there are some people who say they don't want him because he's a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: A black man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4: -- not even a black. They are saying they don't want someone who is closer to Islamic.

VERJEE: If you had one message today for Barack Obama, what would it be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Wish him best of luck to win in USA so that he can have power also in Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4: Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #5: Publicly, I think it will be like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4: Because he's a Kenyan, we'll be getting visas easier to go to U.S.

[end video clip]

VERJEE: Wolf, in Kenya, Obama continues to be a rock star. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain Verjee, another rock star in Kenya right now. Thanks very much. Zain is from Kenya originally.

Person
Kyra Phillips, Zain Verjee
Show/Publication
The Situation Room, CNN Newsroom
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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