Given the tornadic nature of Web rumors and “urban legends,” it’s often hard to nail down a starting point... an original source of bullshit information.
Not so in the matter of a nasty right-wing myth that Barack Obama is “43.75% Arab.”
That Internet meme started on February 14, 2008.
The man who started it is Kenneth E. Lamb. He’s an obscure conservative blogger, retired journalist, radio talk-show host, small-business owner, born-again Christian and civic activist in Pensacola, Fla.
Lamb posted on his blog a long, rambling email he’d sent to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on February 11.
In that email, Lamb presents what he calls “the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb.” To wit:
“Researching [Obama’s] roots reveal that on his father’s side, he is descended from Arab slave traders.”
“Why is the fact that Mr. Obama is only 6.25% African Negro not reported?”
“... Mr. Obama is 50% Caucasian from his mother's side. He is 43.75% Arabic, and 6.25% African Negro from his father's side.”
“[N]o matter the racist presumption of seeing his skin and without question calling him black, the hard, cold, genetically inarguable reality remains: he is not an African-American.”
Kenneth Lamb provides no evidence for this “inarguable reality.” But he tells Richard Cohen: “I can get with your choice of researchers to have them document my documentation.”
When questioned by one of his own readers about his lack of evidence, Lamb responded: “We are working to prepare the information in a format that will not violate any contractual obligations about its use.”
He has never produced it.
So... based on this one blogger’s say-so – and nothing else – the meme that Barack Obama is “Arab” has spread far and wide in the conservative blogosphere. And it was pushed on nationwide radio this week by Rush Limbaugh.
I will email Kenneth Lamb tonight and ask him where his proof is.
UPDATE (09/24/08): It turns out Rush Limbaugh wasn’t the first to spread Kenneth Lamb’s horseshit on coast-to-coast radio.
Media Matters reported back in June that Monica Crowley (now a Fox News contributor) did likewise while guest-hosting “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Here’s some of what Monica Crowley said on June 23:
“[A]ccording to this genealogy – and again, because I haven’t done the research, I can’t verify this – but according to this guy Kenneth Lamb, Barack Obama is not black African, he is Arab African.
“And yet, this guy is campaigning as black and painting anybody who dares to criticize him as a racist. I mean... it is the biggest con I think I’ve ever seen.”
These scoundrels. I can hardly believe it. Based on nothing, they spread this stuff!