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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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January 16, 2008 7:50 AM

What was Brian Williams thinking?

Posted by David Postman

Did you hear NBC News anchor Brian Williams ask Hillary Clinton last night to respond to “Internet rumors” that she had Vince Foster murdered?

No, of course not, because he didn’t ask that. It’d be ridiculous to have a candidate on a nationally televised debate respond to something that is demonstrably false, defamatory and just plain silly.

So why then did he say during last night’s debate from Las Vegas:

Senator Obama, a fresh question here.

It may not come as news to you that there’s a lot of false information about you circulating on the Internet. We receive one e-mail in particular, usually once several week. We received three of them this week.

This particular one alleges, among other things, that you are trying to hide the fact that you are a Muslim, that you took the oath of office on the Koran and not the Bible, that you will not pledge allegiance to the flag or generally respect it.

How, how do you, how does your campaign, go on about combating this kind of thing?

Obama smiles and chuckles while the question is being asked. He then explains that he’s a Christian, pledges to the flag, often even leads the pledge in the Senate and in fact took the oath on the Bible. He explains:

In the Internet age there are going to be lies that are going to be spread all over the place.

MSNBC has the video of the exchange up under the headline:

Obama addresses Internet rumors

I have not found the clip of Williams asking the candidates to respond to Internet rumors that Mikey from the LIFE cereal commercials died after eating Pop Rocks and drinking a six-pack of Pepsi.

MORE: At The Slog, Josh Feit says he didn't like the question much either, but he says Obama's answer was bad as well.

I sort of thought the proper response would have been something along the lines of what Will in Seattle suggested on Slog.

The best answer is to walk up to the questioner and backhand him with your glove. But we don't do that anymore.

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Posted by upchuck

11:46 AM, Jan 16, 2008

What MSNBC, General Electric and Ratheon didn't wan't you to see: how Dennis KUCINICH would respond to their questions:

Posted by Will in Seattle

12:14 PM, Jan 16, 2008

Why thanks, David.

Posted by Mr. Progress

3:15 PM, Jan 16, 2008

Why is it so bad to ask the same type of questions we would not hesitate to ask a Republican. Are we afraid of the answer?

Posted by JimD

3:45 PM, Jan 16, 2008

Williams actually did Obama, as it gave Obama an opportunity to address what's arguably the most damaging "hot topic" on low-brow AM conservative talk radio right now, and perhaps the most circulated e-mail slander regarding the election.
Those familiar with the rumor got a definitive answer from the candidate. Everyone else got a preemptive (and dignified) acknowledgement of its existence from the candidate himself.

Supporting Obama (maybe more than HRC) requires SOME voters to push their comfort level into new territory. As obnoxious and silty as these slander rumors are, they do sway the ignorant and fearful. Williams was obviously "thinking" about his FOX News audience, which may not be the brightest bulbs in TV land, but were better served in this debate, than the crap Williams usually gives them.

Posted by JimD

3:47 PM, Jan 16, 2008

Williams actually did Obama A FAVOR...

Posted by Andy

11:59 AM, Jan 17, 2008

Isn't the bigger issue here that Obama has to "defend himself" from claims that he is Muslim? Presumably, this means it is an issue if Obama is a muslim. When did that become a crime or even a salient point of caracter?

Posted by JimD

4:16 PM, Jan 17, 2008

Because Obama says he's a Christian. The slander charges he's actually a Muslim, and his religions misrepresentation must be part of a larger conspiracy to infiltrate the administrative branch with a similarly disingenuous agenda. Incredibly, some folks actually believe it, and I've heard several callers on conservative talk radio say they're not voting for him "just to be on the safe side."

Posted by Grandma

7:33 PM, Jan 17, 2008

Hello, again I am trying to post this. Okay I guess Brian Williams forgot to go to before he asked Obama about that question. The true facts are on If these emails come in and a person is not sure about them, check it out on before sending it on. Also, the talk shows are a bunch of fear and radical talk hosts who make a living by facts that are not always true. Too bad there are listeners that believe them.

Posted by JimD

11:07 PM, Jan 17, 2008

Keep in mind, Williams didn't ask if it was true.
He asked, "...How, how do you, how does your campaign, go on about combating this kind of thing?"
It was like Hillary being asked, "How do you do it everyday," and her now famously emotional response.
Perhaps Obama could raise his numbers by choking up a bit too. LOL

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