Obama's prayer breakfast comments follow years of right-wing media "question[ing]" his faith, citizenship

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

During his February 4 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama stated, "you can question my policies, but don't question my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship." For years, conservative media have asked such questions, often falsely claiming or suggesting that Obama is a Muslim, smearing him over his church attendance and his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and advancing various versions of the discredited myth that Obama has not produced a valid birth certificate, is not a natural-born U.S. citizen, and is not eligible to be president.

Obama calls out those who "question" his faith and citizenship rather than his policies

During his National Prayer Breakfast speech, Obama discussed how the "erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizen." He stated that "Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable," adding: "I am the first to confess I am not always right. Michelle will testify to that. But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship":

OBAMA: At times, it seems like we're unable to listen to one another; to have at once a serious and civil debate. And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth. And then we lose sight of the children without food and the men without shelter and the families without health care.

Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility. That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions. We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system. It's not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God. We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet. We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can't solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda. Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum, that can help us regain a sense of civility.

Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable; understanding, as President [Kennedy] said, that "civility is not a sign of weakness." Now, I am the first to confess I am not always right. Michelle will testify to that. But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship.

Right-wing media frequently push falsehood that Obama may not be a citizen

Media Matters for America has documented numerous instances in which conservative media have advanced the falsehood that Obama was not born in the United States or claimed that he has failed to sufficiently prove his citizenship. In fact, Obama posted his birth certificate on the Obama campaign's Fight the Smears website; the Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed that the birth certificate posted online by the Obama campaign is "a valid Hawaii state birth certificate"; FactCheck.org reported that they had "seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate" and determined that it is authentic; and Obama's birth was announced in contemporaneous editions of two Hawaii newspapers.

Examples of right-wing media advancing citizenship conspiracy theories include:

Right-wing media attack Obama over his faith

Numerous right-wing media figures have repeatedly falsely claimed or suggested that Obama is a Muslim or attended a madrassa as a child:

Several conservative media figures have also criticized Obama for his church attendance:

The conservative media - particularly Fox News' Sean Hannity - have frequently used Obama's relationship with Wright or his attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Wright previously was the pastor, to attack Obama:

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.