Rush claims Obama 'wants to mandate circumcision'
By Catharine Richert
Published on Thursday, August 27th, 2009 at 4:41 p.m.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: We don't imagine there are a lot of kids reading PolitiFact, but this item contains explicit language you don't normally see here. Parental discretion is advised.
A new rap song by the hip-hop artist Jay-Z takes a shot at Rush Limbaugh. But the radio talk show host — referring to the rapper as "Mr. Z" — said he was honored to be mentioned.
"Does this, Snerdley, mark a new development in my career to be singled out in a rap song by the famous rapper Jay-Z?" he said to his call screener on his Aug. 25, 2009, show. "I guess it is. As far as I know I have never been mentioned in a rap song by anybody. I guess it means I've made it. I'm now in a rap tune by the famous rapper Jay-Z. (The song says) '[T]ell Bill O'Reilly to fall back. Tell Rush Limbaugh to get off my balls.' I would remind the rapper Jay-Z: Mr. Z, it is President Obama who wants to mandate circumcision. We had that story yesterday; and that means if we need to save our penises from anybody, it's Obama. I did not know I was on anybody's balls, either. I'm happy to know that they think I am, though! But I didn't actually know that I was."
It's an issue Limbaugh explored on his Aug. 24 show as well, saying, "Not that I'm against circumcision, but it's a family's decision. Leave our penises alone, too, Obama!"
He cited a Fox News story about an upcoming report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that may recommend circumcision for newborn boys as a way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, because studies show that the procedure can reduce transmission of the disease from women to men. The CDC will be discussing what to include in the recommendations at the National HIV Prevention Conference, which is being held in Atlanta this week.
The CDC is still mulling its decision, CDC spokesman Scott Bryan said in an e-mail.
"It is important to note that the recommendations are still in development and the CDC has made no determination at this time about the final content," he wrote. "There is a deliberative process for our circumcision recommendations that allows for both external and internal CDC experts to weigh in, followed by a period of public comment after the draft recommendations are published. With respect to infant circumcision, it is important to recognize that many options are still being considered in this process, including simply educating parents about the potential benefits and risks in order to ensure they can make an informed decision."
CDC is also considering whether to recommend circumcision for adult men who are at high risk for HIV infection, Bryan wrote.
He emphasized that the recommendations "will be completely voluntary."
We wondered whether Obama had been involved in the issue and specifically in the CDC's decision to write the guidance, as Limbaugh's claim indicates.
We scoured his voting record on Congressional Quarterly , his position papers and speeches on Project Vote Smart , and even typed "circumcision" into the White House Web site , and came up with nothing. From what we found, Obama has not used the word "circumcision" in any public statement as a candidate or as president. We also found no evidence that he has recommended circumcusion to the CDC.
The only link —- and it's an indirect one — that we could find between Obama and the CDC's efforts was a press release on the White House Web site announcing a series of HIV/AIDS community discussions, the first one being held in conjunction with the National HIV Prevention Conference we mentioned earlier. But the release did not mention circumcision.
It turns out that circumcision recommendations have been under discussion since 2007, when George W. Bush was president. Given the fact the CDC was pondering the idea back then, it is no more accurate to say Obama wants to mandate circumcision than to say Bush did.
So, back to Limbaugh's claim. He says Obama "wants to mandate circumcision." But the CDC's eventual recommendations — if they even include circumcision — will be voluntary, not mandatory. In addition, we could we find no connection between Obama and the new guidance, and no evidence that Obama had even used the word in a public forum. In fact, the recommendations were under discussion long before Obama took office. This one is ridiculous enough to set the meter ablaze — Pants on Fire!
See Truth-O-Meter item.
Researchers: Catharine Richert
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