Bloomberg: "Let's call those rumors what they are: Lies"

Speaking to a Jewish group in Florida, the mayor of New York says lies about Barack Obama's religion should be rejected.

Published June 20, 2008 6:46PM (EDT)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may officially be an independent, but while speaking to a Jewish group in South Florida on Friday, he may have done Barack Obama a big favor.

Though the reports that Obama may have a problem winning Jewish voters are overblown, as the 2000 election showed, every vote in South Florida's Jewish community is potentially important for a candidate trying to win the state, and the rumors about Obama may at least be peeling off some votes. But Bloomberg took them on directly, saying, according to his prepared remarks:

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 ...

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 has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate for both parties. In either case, for various reasons, that seems unlikely at this point.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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