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Robert Farley
By Robert Farley February 22, 2008

Flag was there, but Obama wasn't waving it

Barack Obama has been subjected to chain e-mail attacks that falsely claim he is a Muslim, that he refused to put his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance and of taking an oath of office with a Koran. He’s even been accused of being anti-American for not wearing an American flag pin.

Here’s the latest chapter: The Barack Obama Revolucion.

This one originates with a local Fox 26 story in Houston. The camera follows two Obama volunteers whooping it up as they enter a new campaign office. The reporter talks about the importance of the Hispanic vote in Houston. Though it went unmentioned, many viewers had a moment of “Wait, is that a....?” Yep, a large Cuban flag with the image of Che Guevara on it can be seen prominently hanging behind the desk of one of the volunteers.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara was a Latin American guerrilla leader and Marxist revolutionary, a major figure in the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro in the late 1950s. Although hailed in some leftist circles as a legendary icon of rebellion, the Argentine-born doctor is also reviled by many Cubans for ruthlessly ordering the execution of more than 150 prisoners in Cuba without a fair trial.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the Fox video to make the rounds on the Internet. More than 70,000 people viewed the video on YouTube. Many blogs picked up the story and ran with it under headlines such as “Barack Obama Loves Che Guevara” at this site and “Barack Obama is a Che Fan” at this one. And the photos have been widely spread via chain e-mails that suggest Obama supports Che Guevara.

On Feb. 11, Orlando Sanchez, a native of Cuba and treasurer of Houston’s Harris County weighed in: “I was outraged to see an image of Che arrogantly displayed over the Cuban flag hanging in the Houston offices of the Obama for President.”

Sanchez, a Republican, is the first Cuban-American elected countywide in Harris County, which boasts the largest concentration of Latinos in Texas. He requested, "on behalf of all Cuban Americans" that Obama demand the flag's removal.

After the whole thing blew up on the Internet, Fox 26 in Houston went back and interviewed the woman who had the flag hanging behind her desk.

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Her name is Maria Isabel and on an Obama Web page she describes herself as a precinct captain for Barack Obama in Houston. When asked about the flag, Isabel said, “It’s a distraction. I don’t have time to talk about the Cuban flag.”

Isabel, who said she was born in Cuba, cut off the interview when the reporter asked if she wanted to apologize for the flag.

“Apologize for what? I think it is a waste of time and it (the interview) is taking too much of my time.” On Feb. 12, the Obama campaign sought to put the issue to rest.

“This is a volunteer office that is not in any way controlled by the Obama campaign,” a statement from the campaign reads. “We were disappointed to see this picture because it is both offensive to many Cuban-Americans -- and Americans of all backgrounds -- and because it does not reflect Senator Obama’s views. Barack Obama has been very clear in putting forward a Cuba policy that is based on one principle: freedom for the Cuban people.”

A disclaimer now appears below the Web site with the Fox 26 video of the women opening the office. “The office featured in this video is funded by volunteers of the Barack Obama Campaign and is not an official headquarters for his campaign.”

Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said he has heard that the flag was taken down. “But honestly, it’s not our office,” he said on Feb. 21, 2008. “It is not an official campaign office. She is a volunteer precinct captain. Her views do not reflect the views of the campaign.”

The question is whether or not it's accurate to say “Obama Loves Che Guevara,” or any of the many variations of that theme now floating around the Internet, based upon this one decoration in this one office put up by this one volunteer. We say no. We say Pants on Fire.


Our Sources

Fox Ch. 26/Houston, Texas Primary Crucial for Democratic Presidential Hopefuls, Feb. 6, 2008

Fox Ch. 26/Houston, Houston Democrats Prepare for Texas Primary, Feb. 3, 2008.

YouTube, Fox 26 in Houston, interview with Maria Isabel, Feb. 12, 2008

Obama Campaign, On Reports of an Inappropriate Flag in a Texas Obama Office, Feb. 12, 2008

NBC Ch. 6, Che Guevara Flag In Obama Campaign Office Causes Controversy, Feb. 13, 2008

Time magazine, The Time 100: Che Guevara June 14, 1999.

“Treasurer Orlando Sanchez Blast Obama Campaign,” Press release from Harris County, Texas, Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, Feb. 11, 2008.

Interview with Orlando Sanchez, Treasurer of Harris County, Texas, Feb. 18, 2008.


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Flag was there, but Obama wasn't waving it

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