Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Republicans: The Party of Disinformation and Dishonesty

For the Hannity show on Fox News, GOP pollster Frank Luntz gathered some Republicans in Iowa together to watch Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Obama during the Superbowl Pregame Show.

During Luntz’s questioning, one person claimed that President Obama's religious convictions guide his policies. Luntz asked her to clarify and the woman said, “I believe that he (Obama) is a Muslim.” Luntz then asked the rest of the group how many believed Obama is Muslim. Nearly half raised their hands.

Many Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim despite Obama's repeated and well publicized identification with the Christian faith. Sadly, the Iowa focus group did reflect the national Republican consensus. Last August, in a Time poll 46% of Republicans said they believe Obama is a Muslim.

46%!!!  Why are Republicans so ill-informed? It’s probable that some of them know better, but they repeat the lies about Obama because they think it helps their cause. As for those who actually believe the lies they repeat, they are getting their information from the well-oiled (financially) far right propaganda machine and its associated echo chamber.

There have been emails circulating since 2007 that say, “Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim“ and then go on to offer up lots of bogus “proof.” The entire case, such as it is, rests on a confused and error-ridden recitation of Obama's upbringing and purported childhood influences. It also exploits a deep fear and mistrust of the Muslim faith.

What began as a stealth email campaign to label Obama as an "outsider" and "not like us" was quickly taken up by the right-wing blogosphere and repeated endlessly on right-wing talk radio. Meanwhile Republican leaders have either actively assisted in perpetuating the lie or have been giving it a wink and a nod.

Speaker Boehner was questioned on Meet the Press about the persistent belief among nearly half of Republicans that Obama is a Muslim and he was asked whether he, as speaker of the House, had a responsibility to "stand up to that kind of ignorance," Boehner told host David Gregory: "It's not my job to tell the American people what to think."

Gregory then asked, "But that kind of ignorance, about whether he's a Muslim, doesn't concern you?"

"The American people have the right to think what they want to think," Boehner replied. "I can't – it's not my job to tell them."

Not his job? Really? Republicans expend vast amounts of money and effort to tell people what to think about various issues. Indeed, Speaker Boehner, spends many of his Sundays on talk shows like Meet the Press pushing his party's agenda and being critical of Democrats. Apparently the only misinformation that is not Boehner’s job to dispel is misinformation about Democrats that benefits Republicans.

When asked what they personally believe about Obama’s religion, Republican leaders always give the same answer, “I take him at his word.” This answer is so uniform among the Republican leadership that it cannot be a coincidence. Republicans don’t want to alienate the crazies and the birthers who make up almost half of their base by openly refuting the lies so they equivocate, and that equivocation only serves to perpetuate the lies.


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