- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) | President Obama said Sunday he isn’t worried about recent polls showing that about one-fifth of Americans think he is a Muslim.

“The facts are the facts,” said Mr. Obama, who is a Christian.

In an interview broadcast on “NBC Nightly News,” the president, whose father and stepfather were nonpracticing Muslims and who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, blamed the confusion over his religious beliefs on “a network of misinformation that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly.”

A poll released earlier this month by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center showed that 18 percent of people think Mr. Obama is Muslim. That was up from 11 percent who said so in March 2009. Just 34 percent said Mr. Obama is Christian, down from 48 percent who said so last year.

“I’m not gonna be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating on out there,” the president said Sunday. “If I spend all my time chasing after that, then I wouldn’t get much done.”

A separate Time magazine survey had 24 percent saying they think Mr. Obama is Muslim, 47 percent said they think he is Christian and 24 percent didn’t know or didn’t respond. Unlike the Pew poll, the Time survey was conducted after Mr. Obama defended Muslims’ right to build a mosque near the World Trade Center ruins.

Nor were false beliefs about Mr. Obama’s religion confined to his political opponents - just 43 percent of blacks and 46 percent of Democrats in the Pew poll identified him as a Christian.

Asked about persistent claims that he wasn’t born in the U.S., and thus would be ineligible to be president, Mr. Obama responded similarly, saying, “I can’t spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead.”

NBC also asked Mr. Obama about conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday. While he didn’t watch the event, Mr. Obama said, “I think that Mr. Beck and the rest of those folks were exercising their rights under our Constitution exactly as they should.”

The president acknowledged the ralliers’ concerns about the economy and terrorism, but said that because a president cannot “fix things overnight, it’s not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country.”

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