Mixed reaction: Did Clinton hedge on Obama rumor?
Nick Juliano
Published: Monday March 3, 2008

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Clinton says Obama Muslim rumor false 'as far as I know'

A widely debunked smear campaign attempting to convince voters that Barack Obama is Muslim maintains a foothold among some rural Ohio voters, 60 Minutes found in a segment aired Sunday.

When CBS correspondent Steve Kroft asked Obama's opponent, Hillary Clinton, about the untrue rumors she seemed to hedge her response:

“You don't believe that Senator Obama's a Muslim?” Kroft asked Sen. Clinton. “Of course not. I mean, that, you know, there is no basis for that. I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn't any reason to doubt that,” she replied. “You said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not…a Muslim. You don't believe that he's…,” Kroft said. “No. No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know,” she said.

That last line -- "as far as I know" -- was criticized by some, who said Clinton should have given a definitive "no" and left it at that. Earlier in its broadcast, 60 Minutes spoke to an Ohio voter who believed the Obama rumors.

"I don't know about you but this seems pretty shady to me," wrote one blogger at the liberal MyDD.com.

"When asked repeatedly if she believed that Obama was a Muslim, Clinton used a number of phrases that made it seem like her denial was based more on a lack of evidence rather than a sincere belief that Obama has never been Muslim. As if she just hadn’t gotten those e-mails yet," read another post at Trainwreck Politics. "She could have simply said, 'No, Barack Obama is not a Muslim and has never been a Muslim. This is a case of ridiculous rumors versus demonstrable facts.'”

Others were more willing to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt:

"This is about 95 percent the correct and proper answer. ... I doubt this was about anything more than verbal sloppiness," Michael Crowley wrote at The New Republic. "But particularly given the way people see a conspiracy behind every Clinonite utterance, Hillary should have dispatched this question with one crisp sentence saying it's just not true."

"For me it's on the edge. And I find it surprising she would leave it on the edge," Josh Marshall observed at Talking Points Memo. "Why the 'as far as I know' line? On the other hand, at other points, she seems pretty unequivocal."

The following video was posted to YouTube: