Media Matters: CBS Evening News aired portion of Floyd Brown's anti-Obama attack ad, failing to report Obama is not a Muslim





On the June 30 edition of the CBS Evening News, correspondent Dean Reynolds aired a clip of an attack ad against Sen. Barack Obama in which the narrator says,"Obama was enrolled in school as a Muslim while living in Indonesia." Nowhere in his report did Reynolds note that Obama is in fact not a Muslim but, rather, a practicing Christian. Earlier in the report, Reynolds stated that Obama"has faced such questions [about his patriotism] for months, mostly on the Internet," adding,"It's a campaign to sow doubts about him."

Previously, the editor of CBS' now-defunct Public Eye blog criticized an April 2007 video by Evening News anchor Katie Couric in which, as Media Matters for Americanoted, Couric asserted that Obama's"background sparked rumors that he had studied at a radical madrassa, or Quranic school" without noting that the rumors werefalse. Couric's"Notebook" was later updated to note that the madrassa"rumors [were] later disproved" and that the source for the claim that Obama"grew up praying in a mosque" later backed off that assertion.

According to a March 25, 2007, Chicago Tribunearticle, Obama attended a Catholic elementary school and then a public school during the four years he spent in Indonesia as a child. As Media Matters previously documented, a January 24, 2007, Associated Press article reported that while enrolling at Fransiskus Assisis (St. Francis of Assisi), the Catholic school Obama attended for grades 1 through 3, Obama was"required" to" choose one of five state-sanctioned religions when registering -- Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant." The AP reported that"documents showed [Obama] enrolled as a Muslim, the religion of his stepfather" and that Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs"said he wasn't sure why the document had Obama listed as a Muslim." The article also quoted Gibbs as stating,"Senator Obama has never been a Muslim." The Tribune article further reported on Obama's enrollment status:

At the time, the school most likely registered children based on the religion of their fathers, said Darmawan, Obama's former teacher. Because Soetoro was a Muslim, Obama was listed as a Muslim, she said.

The enrollment form from the Catholic school, which has been cited as evidence that Obama was a Muslim in Indonesia, also was rife with errors. It listed Obama as an Indonesian, listed his previous school incorrectly and failed to list his mother, Ann, at all.

A May 15, 2007, Los Angeles Timesarticle reported that"[a]fter St. Francis, Obama completed third and fourth grades in what is now called Model Primary School Menteng 1 in central Jakarta. Opened by Indonesia's former Dutch colonial rulers, the public school screens for the best students with writing tests and interviews. Several of its students have gone on to join Indonesia's elite." According to the Times,"Bugs have eaten Obama's file in the school's archive, said Vice Principal Hardi Priyono. But two of his teachers, former Vice Principal Tine Hahiyari and third-grade teacher Effendi, said they remember clearly that at this school too, he was registered as a Muslim, which determined what class he attended during weekly religion lessons." The Tribune also reported:"Interviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia."

Obama has said in speeches that his father"was Muslim but as an adult became an atheist," and Obama's Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was described in the Tribune article as"much more of a free spirit than a devout Muslim, according to former friends and neighbors."

During the CBS report, the attack ad was identified as a"YouTube" video from"ExposeObama.com." But Reynolds did not note that ExposeObama.com is run by Floyd Brown, the creator of the infamous Willie Horton ad that ran against then-Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988. ExposeObama.com describes itself as a"project of the National Campaign Fund," of which Brown is the"Founder and President."

From the January 24, 2007 AP article:

Obama's mother, divorced from Obama's father, married a man from Indonesia named Lolo Soetoro, and the family relocated to the country from 1967-71. At first, Obama attended the Catholic school, Fransiskus Assisis, where documents showed he enrolled as a Muslim, the religion of his stepfather.

The document required that each student choose one of five state-sanctioned religions when registering -- Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant. Gibbs said he wasn't sure why the document had Obama listed as a Muslim.

"Senator Obama has never been a Muslim," Gibbs said."As a six-year-old in Catholic school, he studied the catechism."

The Illinois senator is a member of the United Church of Christ.

From the March 25, 2007, Chicago Tribune article:

Obama's stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was much more of a free spirit than a devout Muslim, according to former friends and neighbors. And the school described as an Islamic madrassa in media reports actually was a public school, so progressive that teachers wore miniskirts and all students were encouraged to celebrate Christmas.

[...]

At the time, the school most likely registered children based on the religion of their fathers, said Darmawan, Obama's former teacher. Because Soetoro was a Muslim, Obama was listed as a Muslim, she said.

The enrollment form from the Catholic school, which has been cited as evidence that Obama was a Muslim in Indonesia, also was rife with errors. It listed Obama as an Indonesian, listed his previous school incorrectly and failed to list his mother, Ann, at all.

From the June 30 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

COURIC: Now, turning to the presidential campaign. Today, John McCain returned fire after a surprising attack on one of his biggest strengths. This as Barack Obama tried to shore up what some believe is one of his biggest weaknesses. Here's Dean Reynolds.

[begin video clip]

REYNOLDS: For Barack Obama, his speech today in Missouri was the latest attempt to rebut insinuations that he is less than loyal to the country.

OBAMA: I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. [video break] And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.

REYNOLDS: But he has faced such questions for months, mostly on the Internet. It's a campaign to sow doubts about him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama was enrolled in school as a Muslim while living in Indonesia.

REYNOLDS: Obama now wears an American flag pin in his lapel and is often at events where Old Glory is prominent. He clearly believes patriotism should be off the table.

OBAMA: No party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism. [video break] And surely we can arrive at a definition of patriotism that, however rough and imperfect, captures the best of America's common spirit.



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