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During the Democratic debate in Philadelphia, a question from a voter rekindled an unlikely campaign issue: why Sen. Barack Obama doesn't wear a flag lapel pin.
Moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos rolled video of a voter from Latrobe, Pa.: "Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why you don't."
Obama gave a lengthy answer first defended his patriotrism -- "I revere the American flag, and I would not be running for president if I did not revere this country" -- before repeating remarks that it's more important to act patriotically than to wear a pin.
"What I've tried to do is to show my patriotism by how I treat veterans when I'm working in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; by making sure that I'm speaking forcefully about how we need to bring this war in Iraq to a close, because I think it is not serving our national security well and it's not serving our military families and our troops well; talking about how we need to restore a sense of economic fairness to this country because that's what this country has always been about, is providing upward mobility and ladders to opportunity for all Americans."
Then he added, "I wore one yesterday when a veteran handed it to me, who himself was disabled and works on behalf of disabled veterans. I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins."
This is not the first time Obama has been questioned about lapel pins. The issue first came up in October 2007 when a reporter with KCRG-TV, an ABC affiliate in Iowa, asked him, "You don't have the American flag pin on. Is that a fashion statement?"
Obama said: "You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism."
The comment raised enough eyebrows that Obama brought it up the next day at a campaign appearance to explain it.
"I said, you know what, I probably haven't worn a flag pin in a very long time. After a while I noticed people wearing a lapel pin and not acting very patriotic.
"My attitude is that I'm less concerned about what you're wearing on your lapel than what's in your heart. You show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who serve. You show your patriotism by being true to our values and ideals. That's what we have to lead with is our values and our ideals."
So it is true that Obama said he won't wear the flag pin, and his statement at the debate was not accurate.
Obama wasn't the only candidate, however, not wearing a flag pin. News reports from October 2007 indicate that neither Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, nor John McCain were wearing flag pins on a daily basis either. The only candidate mentioned in news reports as regularly wearing a flag pin was Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani. (For more on the flag pin controversy and reaction to the debate, see our story here.)
Nevertheless, Obama did give a statement saying he didn't wear flag pins, so we find his statement, "I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins," to be False.
ABC News, Obama Dropped Flag Pin in War Statement , Oct. 4, 2007. (Includes video.)
KCRG-TV, Obama Won't Wear American Flag Pin , Oct. 4, 2007.
MSNBC, "Obama's Pin Flap," Oct. 5, 2007.
New York Daily News, "Won't stick it to Bam. Many pols won't wear flag pins - or criticize Barack," Oct. 6, 2007.
The Associated Press, "Obama stops wearing flag pin," October 4, 2007.
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