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We've seen a lot of groundless and ridiculous chain e-mails during the 2008 campaign.
There was the one that fabricated Bible verses to suggest Barack Obama fit the profile for the Antichrist; there was another that falsified a list of books that Sarah Palin supposedly sought to ban; and there was our all-time favorite, which falsely claimed Obama wants the national anthem to be I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing .
We always liked that song when it was the Coca-Cola theme, and the chain e-mail provided a fun excuse in April to watch the commercial on YouTube. So it was a treat when several readers sent us a new e-mail that includes the national anthem quote along with some other equally ridiculous ones. (You can read the full e-mail here .)
The e-mail has been widely circulated and posted on dozens of blogs because it has a few elements that make it look authentic. It says that Obama made the remarks "on Sunday's Televised 'Meet the Press,' " and the account appears to be written by Dale Lindsborg of the Washington Post . And unless you are a keen student of cola advertising, you might miss the satirical suggestion about the song.
So let's put the Coke song on the turntable as we examine the new e-mail.
It begins, like so many chain e-mails attacking Obama, with a subject line that invokes patriotism: "Meet the Press - read this if you're an American."
It says the account is "a narrative taken from Sunday Morning's televised 'Meet the Press', and the author is employed by none other than the Washington Post."
It says that on the Sept. 7 show, Obama was asked by "General Bill Ginn' USAF (ret.)" why he doesn't follow protocol when the national anthem is played. (That question is based on a photograph of Obama standing with his hands folded at his waist while Sen. Hillary Clinton and others have their hands over their hearts. It has been misinterpreted in many chain e-mails as an indication that Obama refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance, which we addressed with this article .)
During the Meet the Press appearance, Obama is said to have replied, "As I've said about the flag pin, I don't want to be perceived as taking sides. . . .There are a lot of people in the world to whom the American flag is a symbol of oppression. And the anthem itself conveys a war-like message. You know, the bombs bursting in air and all. It should be swapped for something less parochial and less bellicose. I like the song 'I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing.' If that were our anthem, then I might salute it."
Obama, it says, continued: "We should consider to reinvent our National Anthem as well as to redesign our Flag to better offer our enemies hope and love. It's my intention, if elected, to disarm America to the level of acceptance to our Middle East Brethren. If we as a Nation of warring people, should conduct ourselves as the nations of Islam, whereas peace prevails. Perhaps a state or period of mutual concord between our governments. When I become President, I will seek a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity, and a freedom from disquieting oppressive thoughts. We as a Nation have placed upon the nations of Islam an unfair injustice."
It then abruptly shifts gears to his comments about his wife Michelle: "My wife disrespects the Flag for many personal reasons. Together she and I have attended several flag burning ceremonies in the past, many years ago. She has her views and I have mine. Of course now, I have found myself about to become the President of the United States and I have put aside my hatred. I will use my power to bring CHANGE to this Nation, and offer the people a new path of hope. My wife and I look forward to becoming our Country's First Family. Indeed, CHANGE is about to overwhelm the United States of America."
It is signed "Dale Lindsborg, Washington Post."
It would be difficult to tally the many, many ways this e-mail is false, but we'll start with the obvious ones. First, Obama was not on Meet the Press on Sept. 7. The guests were Joe Biden and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Nor was Gen. Bill Ginn on the show.
Ginn is indeed a retired Air Force general and not a fan of Obama. In an interview with PolitiFact, Ginn cited Obama's association with Weather Underground co-founder William Ayers, the group ACORN and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as just a few examples why he does not want Obama to be president.
But Ginn said the Meet the Press account was fabricated and that he had never spoken to Obama. Ginn said his name might have gotten attached to the e-mail because of a message he sent to a friend expressing concern about Obama not putting his hand over his heart during the national anthem.
Neither is Dale Lindsborg a reporter at the Washington Post . Anne Kornblut, a real political reporter from the Post , said in an online chat that she checked the paper's directory and couldn't find anyone by that name.
And, Obama's quote is fabricated. It seems to be a mashup from at least two sources. The anthem part comes from a satirical column published on the Web in October 2007 by Arizona writer John Semmens that produced the original bogus e-mail that we checked last spring.
We couldn't determine the origin of the part about redesigning the American flag "to better offer our enemies hope and love," but a search of the Project Vote Smart database of Obama's speeches indicates he has not uttered the phrase. He also has not made the remark about his wife disrespecting the flag, according to the Vote Smart database.
This chain e-mail, like most that we've checked, is false. In fact, it's so ridiculously, maliciously false, that it sets the Truth-O-Meter ablaze. Pants on Fire.
MSNBC, Meet the Press Transcript , Sept. 7, 2008
WashingtonPost.com, Post Politics Hour with Anne Kornblut , Oct. 15, 2008
Editor and Publisher, Bogus 'Wash Post' Reporter Featured in Obama Smear , Oct. 16, 2008
VoteSmart, Speeches and Public Statements of Barack Obama , Accessed Oct. 25, 2008
The Arizona Conservative, Obama explains national anthem stance , satire by John Semmens, Oct. 27, 2007
Library of Congress, The "Hilltop" Ad: The Story of a Commercial
YouTube.com, Coca-Cola Hilltop ad
Interview with John Semmens
Snopes.com, Barack Obama: National Anthem Stance , April 15, 2008
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