'I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t spend all of my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead,' president quips
President Barack Obama blamed a "network of misinformation" for keeping alive persistent rumors that he is Muslim, but he shrugged off the misconception as being out of his control.
"There is a mechanism, a network of misinformation, that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly," Obama said in an interview with NBC television.
He said the recurring controversy was something he will not allow himself to spend too much time on, however.
"I'm not going to be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating out there," Obama said.
"If I spend all my time chasing after that then I wouldn't get much done," the president said.
Opinion polls earlier this month showed that roughly one in five Americans wrongly believes Obama is a Muslim -- even though the US leader is a church-going Christian who repeatedly has spoken out about his faith.
The rumors, which circulate largely on the Internet, gathered steam after Obama waded into a controversy earlier this month over plans to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center bombing at Ground Zero.
Obama at an Iftar dinner, when Muslims break their fast during the month of Ramadan, defended the constitutional right of Muslims to build a mosque near the New York site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- remarks which apparently confirmed the suspicions of some who believe he is an adherent of the Islamic faith.
He repeated the essence of those remarks to NBC on Sunday.
"If you can build a church on that site, if you can build a synagogue on that site or a Hindu Temple on that site, then we can't treat people of the Islamic faith differently, who are Americans -- who are American citizens," the US leader said.
"That is central to who we are. That is a core value of our Constitution. And my job as president is to make sure in part that we're upholding our Constitution."
His original remarks on the subject drew immediate fire from Republican foes, including possible contenders for the White House in 2012, who denounced the project as offending the memory of those killed in the attacks.
While the controversy about his religion was given new currency following his remarks, Obama told NBC that rumors questioning his faith and nationality have swirled about him for as long as he has been in public life.
"We dealt with this when I was first running for the US Senate," he said.
"We dealt with it when we were first running for the presidency. There were those who said I couldn't win as US senator because I had a funny name," Obama said.
"Yet, we ended up winning that Senate seat in Illinois because I trusted in the American people's capacity to get beyond all this nonsense and focus on, 'is this somebody who cares about me and cares about my family, and has a vision for the future?'
"And so, I will always put my money on the American people," Obama said.
This video is from NBC Nightly News, broadcast Sunday, August 29, 2010.