A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

A Spam Metamorphosis


We’ve seen a lot of misleading spam this season claiming Sen. Barack Obama is guilty of one or all of the following:

  1. He won’t place his hand over his heart for the national anthem.
  2. He refuses to wear a flag pin.
  3. He replaced the American flag on his campaign plane with his campaign logo.
  4. He has listened to Rev. Jeremiah Wright say offensive remarks such as “God damn America.”

Now the claims have appeared in an ad from the conservative group Our Country Deserves Better PAC. The ad features organization chief Howard Kaloogian as he goes through all four of these charges that fueled months’ worth of misleading and false chain e-mails.

Kaloogian claims Obama sat for 20 years listening to “rants” from Jeremiah Wright. As we’ve reported, it’s true Obama was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ where Wright was a pastor. But Obama has since denounced his former pastor and his disparaging remarks — the ad doesn’t mention that.

Next, the ad shows footage of Obama in Iowa listening to the national anthem. There’s no arguing with the footage. But as we said before: “It is true that the U.S. Code states that ‘all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.’ But the word ’should’ rather than ’shall’ makes that a recommendation and not a legal requirement.” When we asked Anne Garside, director of communication for the Maryland Historical Society (home of the original manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner”) about the matter, she replied that “there is no obligation to put your hand over your heart.” Garside added that the controversy had “gotten a little bit ridiculous.” (Chain e-mails twisted this incident to falsely say Obama doesn’t put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.)

Kaloogian then claims that “after 9-11 Obama stopped wearing an American flag lapel pin.” The ad then cuts short an excerpt from an Oct. 2007 ABC interview during which Obama said:

Obama: 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 gonna try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.

Obama has since resumed wearing a flag pin.

Last, but not least, Kaloogian repeats another mislead we’ve already addressed, claiming “now [Obama has] removed the American flag from his airplane, replacing it with a campaign logo.” It’s true that Obama had chartered a North American Airlines plane that included the airline’s logo on the tail. That logo included the American flag. In late July, Obama began using a redesigned plane that featured his campaign logo on the tail and an American flag on the side of the plane. It’s worth noting that Sen. John McCain’s plane doesn’t feature a flag on the tail either — but has one on the side of the aircraft.