That night, in a conference call, Obama told his top aides it was time for a more aggressive solution to the rumors that have been popping up on the Internet about him and his family for months. And so the Obama campaign has built what might best be described as a Web-based rumor clearinghouse, located at fightthesmears.com, in which it hopes all the shady stories about Obama's faith, his family and his rumored connections with controversial figures can go to die.
Obama is enlisting his millions of supporters to help him hunt down and quash these stories, just as those supporters helped him turn his insurgent campaign into a history-making juggernaut. Says Obama adviser Anita Dunn: "We will not allow Michelle—or, for that matter, Barack—to be defined by rumors."
For more than a year, Obama relied on conventional means to confront the blogosphere's superheated rumor mill—to little effect. The "fact-check" feature on his website, for instance, only seemed to spawn more, and wilder, rumors. A mention there of Obama's birth certificate spurred National Review Online to demand that he produce it to dispel groundless reports that Obama was actually born in Kenya and therefore would be constitutionally ineligible to be President; that his middle name is not Hussein but Muhammad; and that his mother actually named him Barry. That National Review article in turn became fodder for cable television.
According to campaign officials, what finally launched Obama into a full rumor counteroffensive was a story that apparently first made a big splash on the Internet in late May in a post by pro-Hillary Clinton blogger Larry Johnson. Quoting "someone in touch with a senior Republican," Johnson claimed that there was a video of Michelle Obama "blasting 'whitey' during a rant at Jeremiah Wright's church." (Later versions of the rumor had Michelle's "rant" happening at a Rainbow/push Coalition conference.) No such videotape has surfaced....