How many times will American politicians make this statement?
Speaking last week at a conference sponsored by Atlantic Magazine, South Carolina Senator, Lindsey Graham said of President Obama, “He's not a Muslim. He's a good man.”
To give the Senator credit, he was opposing fringe elements in his party who were casting doubts as to whether Barack Obama was born in the USA. The full quote went as follows:
“I'm here to tell you that those who think the president was not born in Hawaii are crazy. He's not a Muslim. He's a good man, and let's knock this crap off and talk about the real differences we have,” Graham said.
Listen to the Clip (It starts at the 2 minute mark)
But in condemning the so-called ‘birthers’ Graham equated being Muslim with being evil or not a good man.
The same footage was played on Larry King Live (6 October 2009) with Senator Graham making the statement: “He’s not a Muslim. He’s a good man.” (See transcript).
Sadly none of Larry’s guests picked up on this blunder. Would they have challenged the statement if Graham had said of someone else, “He’s not a black [Catholic/Jew/homosexual/woman]. He’s a good man.”
He might say that his two sentences were separate but in stating a negative (‘He’s not’) and then following it with a positive (‘He is’), the Senator is perpetuating a widespread prejudice about Muslims.
Slip of the Tongue or Stereotype?
Was this a slip of the tongue? The issue or a variation has arisen many times before and most publically from the mouth of Presidential hopeful, John McCain, while on the campaign trail in Minnesota (10 October 2008).
At one point McCain passed his wireless microphone to a volunteer who said, “I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not uh — he's an Arab. He's not — " before McCain regained the microphone and replied:
“No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab].”
It was heartening to see John McCain tamping down many of the outrageous outbursts and mistruths but on this issue he left himself with ambiguity and questions about his view of Arabs. The woman said, “He’s an Arab!” to which John McCain said, “No, ma'am. He's a decent family man…”
As John McCain reinforced the view that Arabs are indecent people that you cannot trust so Lindsey Graham has perpetuated a destructive stereotype about Muslims.
Coming from leaders in public office who are speaking before international television audiences this language is unacceptable and must be challenged.
Tom Baxter, South Carolina Republicans Firing Lots of Salvos This Year, Southern Political Report, 6 October 2009.
Lindsey Graham Speaks Out Against Beck and Conservative Fringe Elements, YouTube, 1 October 2009.
Larry King Live, Transcript, 6 October 2009.
John McCain: What is Wrong with Arabs? Experiencing the Emirates, 14 October 2008.
Other Stories and Related Sites
Sheikh Zayed Named by Newsweek as One of the Postwar Transformers, Experiencing the Emirates, 7 October 2009.
Watch First Western Media Report from Ras al Khaimah, America’s Cup in the UAE, 7 October 2009.
Sew Why This Fujairah Resident Has a Smile on His Face, Fujairah in Focus, 7 October 2009.
Ricky Gervais Speaks of Being ‘Born Again’ to the Joy of Work, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 4 October 2009.
Dr Geoff Pound
Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.
Image: Senator Lindsey Graham.
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