Mayor Bloomberg was in the Sunshine State yesterday, attending a breakfast hosted by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, and took the opportunity to slam the "whisper campaign" smears against Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. Bloomberg said, "Let's make sure that we, as Jews and as voters, keep the conversation focused on the facts and not let it descend into false rumor and innuendo."
Unfounded rumors, many spread in viral e-mail campaigns, about Obama led to his campaign to create a "Fight the Smears" website dedicated to refuting claims like Obama won't say the Pledge of Allegiance and Obama is secretly Muslim. Given that Muslim rumors about Obama, who is Christian, have worried some Jewish voters, Bloomberg's defense of Obama comes at a critical time.
The Mayor said:
" As I'm sure many of you know, there are plenty of emails floating around the Internet targeting Jewish voters and saying that Senator Obama is secretly a Muslim, and a radical one at that. Let's call those rumors what they are: lies. They are cloaked in concern for Israel, but the real concern is about partisan politics. Israel is just being used as a pawn, which is not that surprising, since some people are willing to stoop to any level to win an election.
"These demagogues are hoping to exploit the political differences between the Jewish and Muslim people to spread fear and mistrust. This is wedge politics at its worst, and we've got to reject it - loudly, clearly, and unequivocally. And how can we as a people not speak out against demagoguery and stereotype and whisper campaigns!? Of all people, we know how hurtful these forces can be. We know the evils they can stir up and the violence they can inflame...
"And in this election, we must all stand up to this whisper campaign against Senator Obama. That's because it threatens to undo the enormous strides that Jews and Muslims have made together in this country - and the enormous strides that Jews and African-Americans have made together."
Bloomberg also praised John McCain for denouncing the smear campaign, noting that McCain was the victim of a smear campaign in 2000 election, and said Obama is a friend of Israel.
Bloomberg received a standing ovation and Florida State Senator Ted Deutch said, "A lot of people in this community - a lot of my constituents in particular - they will sit up and take notice." Still, one 90-year-old woman who received and believed the smear e-mails (her children told her they were lies) told the Times, though Bloomberg's speech confirmed what her children said, "I still have doubts about [Obama].”