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Published:December 22nd, 2006 14:13 EST
The Media Honeymoon is Over for Barack Hussein Obama

The Media Honeymoon is Over for Barack Hussein Obama

By George Curry (Former Featured Editor)

After peering from the cover of Time magazine, making the round of TV Sunday talk shows and being urged by newspaper columnists and editorial writers to make a run for president in 2008, Barack Obama’s honeymoon with the media is over. Generally, overly favorable news coverage ends the moment a candidate declares for office. However, for Obama, who is still considering whether to run, the tide has already turned.

According to, a media monitoring site, Republican operatives and conservative talk show hosts launched a not-so-subtle attack on Obama’s middle name – Hussein.

“In late November, Republican strategist Ed Rogers began pointedly referring to ‘Barack Hussein Obama,’ using the senator and potential Democratic presidential candidate’s middle name,” MediaMatters reported. “Soon, the utterly meaningless – but eminently mockable – fact that Obama’s middle name is ‘Hussein’ was everywhere.

"NBC’s Mike Viqueira announced ‘a man named Barack Obama, whose middle name, incidentally, is Hussein, running for president.’

"On the December 5 edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume, Carl Cameron told viewers, ‘Though he’s written two books about himself already, most people know very little about Barack Hussein Obama Junior’s uncommonly privileged life.’ In case you’re wondering: No, ‘John Sidney McCain’ does not appear in any Fox News stories available on Nexis.”

Chris Matthews interviewed Ed Rogers on his show and teased him about mocking Obama’s middle name on the program while the regular host was away.


MATTHEWS: Ed, you made some news here the other night. Let’s take a look at the tape of what you said.

ROGERS: Oh, come on.

MATTHEWS: No, no – of what you said in my absence. When the cat’s away, the mouse will play.

ROGERS: Where were you? Where were you?

MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look at what you said.

ROGERS [video clip] Held me down as somebody that underestimates Barack Hussein Obama, please.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know in an American life, the only time we start using three names for a person is when they’re an assassin – you know, John Henry –

ROGERS: There’s some truth to that.

MATTHEWS: Lee Harvey Oswald. Why did you invoke the middle name of Barack Obama out of nowhere? What are you up to, sir?

ROGERS: Mostly teasing him as a lightweight and somebody that’s just not ready ... But I hope he runs. I want him to run. There’s more – "


Yes, there is more. Matthews, a former Republican staffer, pretended that Rogers “made some news” in his absence when it was Matthews who had been the culprit.

According to the monitoring group, “On the November 7 edition of Hardball – three full weeks before Rogers’ comment – Matthews said: ‘You know, it’s interesting that Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein. That will be interesting down the road, won’t it?”

CNN’s Jeff Greenfield was no better than his conservative counterparts.

Referring to Obama, the journalist said: “... He may be walking around with a sartorial time bomb. Ask yourself: Is there any other major public figure who dresses the way he does? Why, yes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, unlike most of his predecessors, seem to have skipped through enough copies of GQ to find the jacket-and-no-tie look agreeable. And maybe that’s not the comparison a possible presidential contender really wants to evoke.”

Since when did not wearing a tie with a suit equate to being a terrorist sympathizer?

But Greenfield did not stop there.

“Now, it is one thing to have a last name that sounds like Osama and a middle name, Hussein, that is probably less than helpful. But an outfit that reminds people of a charter member of the Axis of Evil? Why, this could leave his presidential hopes hanging by a thread. Or is that threads?”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had written a column saying that Obama’s “ears stick out.” When Obama saw Dowd, he teased her about her description of him, saying, “You talked about my ears. I just want to put you on notice: I’m very sensitive ... I was teased relentlessly when I was a kid about my big ears.”

That joking exchange was blown out of proportion by Rush Limbaugh. He said, “... If the guy is sensitive about his big ears, we need to give him a new name, like Dumbo, but that doesn’t quite get it. You know, just calling him – calling him – that just doesn’t –how about Barack Hussein Odumbo?”

Obama was named after his father, who was born in Kenya, not Kennebunkport. To focus on his name, his big ears or whether he wears a tie shows just how small-minded and vicious some opinionated talking heads can be.


George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service and To contact Curry or to book him for a speaking engagement, go to his Web site,