Hillary Clinton Started the Whole “Obama is a Muslim” Thing

by Benjamin Studebaker

Over the last week, republican candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson have been taking a lot of heat–Trump for refusing to deny that Obama is a Muslim foreigner, Carson for explicitly stating that Muslims should not be president. We’ll discuss what both of them said, but I want to remind everyone of something we seem to have forgotten–it was Hillary Clinton who started this, and any person who supports Clinton while criticizing Trump or Carson is at best deeply ignorant of Clinton’s past and at worst a naked hypocrite.

But first, let’s go over what happened recently, starting with Trump:

The questioner says:

We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American. But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question. When can we get rid of them?

Midway through, Trump laughs:

We need this question. This is the first question?

He then responds:

We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things and you know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.

Trump’s answer is very vague and noncommittal. It’s unclear whether the questioner is asking Trump to get rid of the alleged “training camps” or Muslims in general (it might well be both). Trump has come under fire on two grounds:

  1. He did not defend the president.
  2. He did not defend American Muslims.

Over the last few days, Trump has, in his way, given his response to both of these critiques. On Twitter, he argued that he was not morally obligated to defend the president on reciprocity grounds:

When asked at a subsequent gathering whether he would consider having Muslims in his administration, Trump responded:

Oh, absolutely. No problem with that. I love the Muslims. I think they’re great people.

I don’t think it’s clear from this that Trump himself personally believes that Obama is a Muslim or a foreigner or that Trump himself is deeply hostile to Muslims–it shows merely that Trump is happy to let voters who do believe these things and/or are Islamophobic think that he is one of them for political purposes. President Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, explained what’s going on here rather well:

People who hold these offensive views are part of Mr. Trump’s base. And Mr. Trump himself would be the first to tell you that he’s got the biggest base of any Republican politician these days.

Right now, allowing supporters to indulge in racist or Islamophobic rhetoric is a winning strategy in the republican primaries, regardless of whether or not the candidates themselves actually believe what’s being said or would act on it politically if elected. Compared to the rest of the republican field, Trump is often the most liberal candidate, but by allowing his supporters to be as racist, xenophobic, or Islamophobic as they wish, Trump has managed to persuade a large number of republican voters that he’s a more trustworthy conservative than many candidates with far more explicitly right wing policy positions.

It’s for this reason that Ben Carson has chosen to pander to these individuals as well, copying Trump’s strategy rather than repudiating it:


Carson was asked if he believed Islam is consistent with the US constitution. He replied:

No I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

He did however go on to say that he might support a Muslim for congress. He also affirmed his belief that the president was born in the United States and is a Christian. However, when pressed on this point in a subsequent interview, Carson doubled down, alleging that Islam is incompatible with respect for separation of church and state and implicitly accusing Muslims who deny this of being liars:

I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country. Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution….

Taqiyya is a component of Shia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals.

Carson said he would make an exception only if the Muslim in question:

…publicly rejected all the tenets of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that.

According to Muslim scholars, Carson’s interpretation of Taqiyya is grossly inaccurate. Khaled Abou El Fadl, a law professor at UCLA, said in the Washington Post:

Yes, it is permissible to hide the fact you are Muslim” if a person is under threat, “as long as it does not involve hurting another person,” Abou El Fadl said. “But there is no concept that would encourage a Muslim to lie to pursue a goal. That is a complete invention. Any Muslim is raised on the idea that lying is a sin.

Omid Safi, director of the Duke University Islamic Studies Center, adds:

It is a dispensation within some aspects of Shia law, which was developed out of the experience of a persecuted religious minority. In brief, it states to value human life over declaration of faith. It is the proverbial question: If a Shia is being persecuted, and someone holds a gun to your head asking ‘are you a Shia?’ you are allowed to say ‘no’ in order to save a human life.

Perversely, the scholars are unlikely to be believed by Carson and other Islamophobes–these folks will simply claim that the interpretation of Taqiyya the scholars espouse is itself a lie intended to advance Muslim political interests. Consequently, Carson’s claim about Islam is an unfalsifiable assertion. Such assertions have no place in scholarship and ought to have no place in national politics. Unlike Trump, Carson is explicitly disparaging the religious beliefs of a group of American citizens. What he’s doing is far more objectionable and repugnant.

But if you’re a Clinton supporter, you have no right to be deeply disgusted with Trump or even with Carson. Why? Because Hillary Clinton was the first presidential candidate in American history to imply that her opponent is a Muslim and/or foreigner as a strategy for damaging that candidate’s chances. Too many of us have forgotten just how low Clinton stooped in 2008 in her desperate effort to avoid defeat against Barack Obama. For starters, Clinton’s campaign circulated this image of Barack Obama wearing a turban during a visit to Kenya:

Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, called it:

the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who was a democratic congresswoman (D-OH) and Clinton ally at the time, said:

I have no shame or no problem with people looking at Barack Obama in his native clothing, in the clothing of his country.

Michael Hastings, the reporter for Newsweek who covered the Clinton campaign, tells this horror story of race-baiting at Clinton rallies:

We were in a high school gym, and Hillary was being introduced by Tom Buenbarger, who heads up the International Machinists Union. Bused-in union members cheered and chanted. Buffenbarger started out by taking a swipe at Obama’s white supporters. “I’ve got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing trust-fund babies crowding in to hear him speak!” he said.

I thought, Huh, I guess that means me.

Buffenbarger launched into a rant in which he compared Obama to Muhammad Ali, the best-known black American convert to Islam after Malcolm X. “But brothers and sisters,” he said, “I’ve seen Ali in action. He could rope-a-dope with Foreman inside the ring. He could go toe-to-toe with Liston inside the ring. He could get his jaw broken by Norton and keep ghting inside the ring. But Barack Obama is no Muhammad Ali.” The cunning racism of the attack actually made my heart start to beat fast and my ears start to ring. For the first time on the campaign trail, I felt completely outraged. I kept thinking, “Am I misreading this?” But there was no way, if you were in that room, to think it was anything other than what it was.

Clinton openly boasted to USA Today that she could win more white voters than Obama:

“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

“There’s a pattern emerging here,” she said.

You can’t make this stuff up. Here’s video footage of people talking about the awful things Clinton and her people were saying in 2008:

The Clinton campaign continuously and deliberately implied that Obama was “the black candidate”, unelectable in a general election specifically because of his race. When Obama won South Carolina, Bill Clinton compared him to Jesse Jackson:

Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88. Jackson ran a good campaign.  And Obama ran a good campaign here.

Clinton’s dog-whistles were subtler than the naked Islamophobia we just saw from Carson. But the underlying message was no less disgraceful, no less morally repugnant. Clinton continually implied and allowed others to imply that Obama was not fit to run or to be president because he was black, Muslim, and/or foreign. In the election that gave the country its first black president, no candidate made more racist, reactionary appeals than Clinton. Unlike Clinton, republican candidate John McCain had the decency to stand up to this narrative:

She has never publicly acknowledged that she did this. She has never apologized for it. And now millions of democrats, many of whom consider themselves to be against racism, against Islamophobia, against xenophobia, are supporting her yet again, even though there are credible alternatives who do not have a long history of political racism (e.g. Bernie Sanders, potentially Joe Biden).

This is not merely a question of rhetoric, it’s a question of policy. The last time we had a President Clinton, millions of people (many of them blacks) were kicked off welfare:

We are only just beginning to understand how badly this hurt our poor families:

  • Mortality rates among welfare recipients likely rose by at least 16%.
  • By keeping single parents in work and away from their children, welfare reform adversely affected the development of adolescents, particularly those who were pushed to care for younger siblings, significantly decreasing academic performance.
  • The percentage of poor children receiving food stamps fell from 88% to 70%, and the number receiving cash assistance fell from 57% to 40%.
  • By making payments contingent on seeking employment, it reduced the probability that women will go back to school by 20-25%.
  • The percent of deeply poor households with children who report having insufficient funds to cover essential expenses rose from 37% in 1995 to 48% in 2005.

The number of households with children in extreme poverty has been rising ever since:


Inequality skyrocketed faster than it did under Reagan or either of the Bushes:

The Clintons have never cared about poor people or black people. They have a long and sordid history of discriminating against the poor and against socially marginalized groups, both with rhetoric and with policy. What Trump failed to say was sad. What Carson said was disgusting. What the Clintons said and did? That’s on a whole different level.  Yet she continues to lead Sanders and Biden in the national polls:

I find this far more disgusting than the idle chit chat of flavor of the month republicans like Ben Carson. Doesn’t anyone remember what she said, what the Clintons did? Doesn’t anyone care? If democratic primary voters won’t stand up for the poor, for blacks, for Muslims, who will?