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Bill Adair
By Bill Adair February 8, 2008

A new twist on an old distortion

A new chain e-mail against Barack Obama recycles some false charges and adds some false twists.

The e-mail, forwarded to us by several readers, provides a new spin on the false claim that Obama refused to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegience nor will he show any reverence for our flag," it says. "While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches."

We have previously examined e-mail allegations that he attended a radical Muslim school (so inaccurate we called it Pants on Fire), that he took the oath of office with a Koran (also Pants on Fire) and that his middle name is Mohammed (Pants on Fire). We've also explored the questions surrounding this photograph from Time magazine's Web site, which prompted the allegations that he "refused to say the pledge" (also False).

Now comes a new allegation, apparently relying on the same photo. Since this one is new to many readers, we'll revisit some of our previous findings and address the new charge about slouching. (This is the first time we can recall slouching being used as the basis for a political attack.)

The Obama photo was taken Sept. 16, 2007, in Indianola, Iowa, at the Harkin Steak Fry, an annual political event hosted by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin. The caption on the Time photo says Obama and the others "stand during the national anthem."

Obama was on stage with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Harkin's wife Ruth.

As the Time caption indicates, the photo was taken during the national anthem, not the pledge, so the photo does not support the allegation that Obama "turns his back and . . . slouches" during the pledge. This is corroborated by an ABC News video of the occasion.

It's clear from the video that the assembled Democrats are not turning their backs on the flag to make an antipatriotic statement. They are looking at the same point — presumably the woman singing the anthem.

It is a matter of interpretation whether Obama is slouching as the anthem is played. The photo shows him with his hands clasped in front of his waist while the others have their hands over the heart (a point of anthem protocol that we addressed in this item). But it doesn't look to us like he's slouching and there's no evidence to suggest his posture was making an antipatriotic statement.

Obama has responded to these allegations by saying he often leads the pledge when he presides over the Senate, as seen in this video from the Senate.

So once again, we find a chain e-mail is incorrect about Obama. We find the statement False.

Our Sources

Time Photo from Tom Harkin's Steak Fry

U.S. Code, NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM, MARCH, AND TREE

ABC News, Obama Says Flag Flap a Dirty Trick

RawStory, No hand over heart from Obama during national anthem

U.S. Marine Corps, Flag Manual

Social Customs: Traditions of the Sea Services

ABC News, Video of anthem at steak fry

Washington Post FactChecker, Obama Nabbed by the Patriot Police

Snopes.com, Hand Over Heart

Interviews: Anne Garside, director of communication for the Maryland Historical Society; Elizabeth Lasko, director of public relations for the National Association for Music Education

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Bill Adair

A new twist on an old distortion

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