In NBC Interview, Obama Again Dismisses Belief That He's a Muslim With Joke

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With polls showing that an increasing number of Americans believe he is not a Christian, President Obama addressed the issue in an interview with Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News Sunday night.

A NEWSWEEK poll last week showed that nearly one in four Americans believes he's a Muslim, while an earlier Pew poll found that one in five thought the president was a Muslim, while 43 percent didn't know what his faith was. Obama is a Christian. "I can't spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead," the president joked in his New Orleans–taped interview, responding to a question on the many rumors about him, and blamed "a network of misinformation" for spreading the false claims.

On the cover of this week's edition of NEWSWEEK, Jonathan Alter offers the president and his team some free advice on how to combat the many untrue rumors circulating about him. "The deeper problem isn't the personal narrative but the political story he's failing to tell—the story of a government committed to rescuing the American middle class," Alter writes. "Beyond the smears, the president needs changes in policy, personnel, and message to rebut the more legitimate critiques of his record."

With the birth-certificate gag, Obama actually conflated the whisper campaign about his religion with a separate one that alleges he was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president (in fairness, he pointed out earlier in the interview that being a Muslim and being American-born are not the same thing). The so-called birther belief has substantial support too, despite concrete evidence to the contrary. According to a CNN poll earlier in August, a quarter of Americans believe he was definitely or probably not born in the U.S.—with another 29 percent saying they're not sure.

Meanwhile, in the department of People the Administration Would Rather Not Hear From on This Issue, Obama's controversial former pastor Jeremiah Wright has weighed in, blasting those who believe Obama is a Muslim in a speech in Arkansas on Sunday.