Obama Web site confronts rumors

WASHINGTON Rumors, innuendos, half-truths and smears have always been a part of the political world. But the increasing prominence of provocative internet videos, incendiary blogs and scurrilous e-mails has elevated half-truths to an art form, and the biggest target this year is Barack Obama, because of his name, his background, his associates and even his wife. So, his campaign is fighting fire with fire on a new Web site that is probably the first of its kind.

Barack Obama, hand over heart, leading the pledge of allegiance in the Senate last year. And, in 2005, Obama taking the oath of office with his hand on a Bible. And Obama singing the National Anthem at a Democratic primary event. All of this, and more, is on www.FightTheSmears.com, Obama's new Web site put together in a rush over the past last week by techies in the campaign office after Obama himself ordered an aggressive response to widely disseminated rumors -- that he's a Muslim who worships the Koran, disrespects the American flag, and the last straw, that wife Michelle made disparaging comments about whites on a tape that, according to the Web site, doesn't exist because it never happened.

"This is an aggressive tool that our supporters can use to take these rumors on and knock them down," said Bill Burton, Obama campaign. Obama was "serious about the task at hand, Burton said.

By Friday, the Web site will include Obama's birth certificate to prove he's an American citizen and his middle name's not Mohammed. The site already has a news story debunking the rumor that he attended a madrassa, a fundamentalist Muslim school, when he was living in Indonesia.

"We're not about to let our campaign and Barack Obama and Michelle Obama be defined by these false rumors out there," said Burton.

Republican John McCain's been subjected to his own share of rumors over the years, but nothing compared to Obama, and nothing that stuck to him like some of the smears have stayed with Obama.

"McCain doesn't seem to have the same difficulties and doesn't have to have this type of a launch, so I'll let that speak for itself," said Christine Dudley, Republican consultant.

It is probably safe to say that McCain, who's been in the public eye and vetted with a fine-tooth comb for years, probably won't be launching a similar website.

But Obama is still relatively new. A lot of the rumors about him have been widely accepted as truth. And he is hoping the same internet traffic that made him the best fundraiser and organizer in political history will also debunk the kinds of rumors that most politicians run away from.

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