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We thought (hoped, maybe) the idea that President Barack Obama is Muslim from Kenya was dead and buried. But even in 2015, it lives on.
This myth has been debunked over and over and over again. We’ve been fact-checking claims about this since 2007, the year PolitiFact went live. Yet it resurfaced Sept. 17, 2015 in Rochester, N.H., at a town hall event for Republican presidential candidate and real estate mogul Donald Trump.
An unidentified audience member asked the first question: What would President Trump would do about Muslims in the United States? Here’s the exchange.
Audience member: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American."
Trump: "We need this question. This is the first question."
Audience member: "Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question: When can we get rid of them?"
Trump: "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and plenty of other things."
Trump was immediately criticized for not countering the man’s comments -- both the assertion that Muslims are a "problem" and that Obama is one.
A recent CNN poll found that 29 percent of Americans and 43 percent of Republicans think Obama is Muslim. Let’s revisit why we know this is not true. (He’s actually Protestant.)
In 2010, we rated the statement "President Obama is a Muslim" Pants on Fire. Our fact-checking has shown that Obama is a Christian.
According to the president's memoirs and independent biographies, Obama became a Christian when he was in his 20s while working as a community organizer in Chicago. (He was not raised in any particular faith as a child.) Obama said the churches there impressed him with their commitment to social justice and the hope they gave to the poor. Several independent reports have documented Obama's church membership and faith life.
In office, Obama has not attended one church regularly. Instead, he has worshipped at various churches in the Washington area, including the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, and St. John's Episcopal Church. He also has attended services at Camp David, the presidential retreat.
PolitiFact has debunked claims in chain e-mails that he attended a radical Islamic school, that his political rise mirrored a biblical tale about the Antichrist, and that he took the oath for U.S. Senate on a Koran. All three earned our lowest rating, Pants on Fire.
Why do so many people keep saying he's Muslim? One explanation is that there is genuine confusion about his religion because Obama has Muslim ancestors on his father's side and a traditionally Muslim middle name, Hussein. Another possible explanation is that people who disagree with him politically and dislike the Muslim religion like to associate him with something they perceive to be negative.
Born in Kenya?
The audience member also said Obama isn’t an American. In case you’ve forgotten, back in 2011 and 2012, Trump argued that Obama wasn’t really eligible to be president because he was born in Kenya, not the United States.
This is also not true -- Obama was born in Honolulu. PolitiFact went to great lengths to document Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate. See our guide to Obama’s birth certificate.
As part of his "birther" crusade, Trump said in 2011, Obama's "grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth."
The claim is based on an Oct. 16, 2008, telephone call between Bishop Ron McRae of the Anabaptist Churches of North America and Sarah Obama of Kenya, Barack Obama's elderly step-grandmother. In the call, we hear a very rough Swahili-to-English translation in which an elderly woman agreed to a leading question that Obama was born in Kenya and that she was present. But the grandmother and translator immediately, clearly and repeatedly corrected the answer to say that Obama was born in the United States, and she was not present. We rated Trump’s claim False.
Just this year, an image circulating on Facebook accused Obama of reaching back to his Kenyan roots for inspiration in choosing to drop President William McKinley as the namesake of America’s tallest mountain. The image said, "‘Denali’ is the Kenyan word for ‘black power.’" In reality, Denali means "high" or "tall" in a native Alaskan language and has been used by native Alaskans as a name for the mountain for generations. Pants on Fire!
An audience member at a Trump campaign event said, "You know our current president is (Muslim). You know he's not even an American."
PolitiFact and others have repeatedly debunked both of these claims -- that Obama is Muslim and that he wasn’t born in America. Against all odds, they live on.
Obama is Christian and was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
We rate the audience member’s claim Pants on Fire!
Washington Post, "Trump doesn’t correct rally attendee who says Obama is Muslim and ‘not even an American,’" Sept. 17, 2015
CNN/ORC, poll, Sept. 13, 2015
PolitiFact, "Obama a Muslim? No he's not. The evidence has not changed," Aug. 26, 2010
PolitiFact, "Why do so many people think Obama is a Muslim?" Aug. 26, 2010
PolitiFact, "PolitiFact's guide to Obama's birth certificate," April 27, 2011
PolitiFact, "Donald Trump Says President Obama's grandmother caught on tape saying she witnessed his birth in Kenya," April 27, 2011
PolitiFact, "No, 'Denali' is not a Kenyan word for 'black power,'" Sept. 3, 2015
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