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Obama comments upon the "have you stopped beating your wife?" types of questions

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  • Obama comments upon the "have you stopped beating your wife?" types of questions

    In 1948, so the legend goes, Lyndon Baines Johnson, facing a formidable and well-financed primary opponent in his Senate race, turned to his campaign manager and suggested they spread the rumor that his pig farmer opponent had engaged in acts of barnyard intimacy that provided him "routine carnal knowledge" of his sows.
    Taken aback, Johnson's campaign manager protested, "But Lyndon, we can't say that! It's not true!" To which Johnson replied, "Of course not, but let's make the bastard deny it."
    essentially, Obama asserts that when you call their bluff---you have answered the question. A denial could be a lie---saying put up or shut up is not.

    Obama denies a rumor and questions the question

    Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday batted down rumors circulating on the Internet and mentioned on some cable news shows of the existence of a video of his wife using a derogatory term for white people, and criticized a reporter for asking him about the rumor, which has not a shred of evidence to support it.

    “We have seen this before. There is dirt and lies that are circulated in e-mails and they pump them out long enough until finally you, a mainstream reporter, asks me about it,” Obama said to the McClatchy reporter during a press conference aboard his campaign plane. “That gives legs to the story. If somebody has evidence that myself or Michelle or anybody has said something inappropriate, let them do it.” (clumsy phrasing, but point asserted)

    Asked whether he knew it not to be true, Obama said he had answered the question.

    “Frankly, my hope is people don’t play this game,” Obama said. “It is a destructive aspect of our politics. Simply because something appears in an e-mail, that should lend it no more credence than if you heard it on the corner. Presumably the job of the press is to not to go around and spread scurrilous rumors like this until there is actually anything, an iota, of substance or evidence that would substantiate it.”
    So was it even acceptable to ask the question?

    Before Obama could answer, communications director Robert Gibbs interjected: “You just did.”

    “That is my point,” Obama said. “I just think people have to think about it before they ask.”

    ben smith comments
    NOTE: Obama's clearly right that this is how stories for which there's no evidence at all make it into the public eye. So I'm not linking or detailing the rumor, since there's just zero credible evidence for it. This is probably a silly old media vestige, of course; Google has no such standards. And Obama's discussion of it is, more broadly, news: As he acknowledged yesterday, beating back whisper campaigns is perhaps the central challenge his campaign faces.

  • #2
    Fiction on Top of Fiction

    A bogus rumor about Michelle Obama that is making the rounds bears a striking resemblance to a fictional episode in a recent political novel.


    • #3
      It's sort of six of one, half dozen of the other. The trouble is, if you don't bat down these rumors, they tend to spread. But if you do bat them down, you spread them. I think reporters probably did Obama a favor questioning him about the whole Muslim-faith rumor; it gave him a chance to talk about his Christian faith.

      The way to do this is to quietly ask an aide about it. If you feel there's still smoke, check it out, then ask the candidate about it.
      "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
      --Albert Einstein


      • #4
        Official Lounge Sponsor of Candy.

        "When you say 'radical right' today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye."
        -Barry Goldwater


        • #5
          Obama used to beat his wife?
          Sometimes elections have positive consequences!


          • #6
            I heard she coined the phrase pink toes
            Official sponsor of Mike Shannon's Retirement Party


            • #7
              Originally posted by cardinalgirl View Post
              Obama used to beat his wife?
              Good to ask---because I used a bad example. That is a question which is an accusation---"stopped" implies you used to. Yes and no are both bad answers for you to give.

              Obama was talking about outright lies which must be answered by saying it is not true---which he makes the point that it does not have to be denied---the challenge to provide some basis for the question is an answer in itself.