Former senator Bob Kerrey, who recently endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, said during a television appearance on Monday that her primary opponent, Sen, Barack Obama, attended a "secular madrassa" as a child.
Kerrey was in the process of lauding Obama's capacity to connect with the Muslim world when he made the claim, which has been discredited.
"I've watched the blogs try to say that you can't trust [Obama] because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa," the Nebraska Democrat said on the Situation Room with John King. "I feel quite opposite. I think it's a tremendous strength whether he's in the United States Senate or whether he's in the White House."
In January, CNN reported that allegations that Obama was educated in a madrassa were inaccurate, after Insight Magazine had first spread the rumors. Weeks ago, the Washington Post resurfaced the story in a front page article that painted the madrassa rumors as part of a greater smear campaign against Obama. The paper was widely criticized for failing to point out that the allegations were proven false.
In a technical sense, Kerrey's words were not entirely untrue. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term madrassa means a "Muslim school, college or university that is often part of a mosque." And Obama has acknowleged that as a child in Indonesia he did attend a "Muslim school."
However, madrassa is a charged word because of the schools' connections to radical Islam. Obama has consistently denied that he was educated in this type of system.
This is the second time in as many days that Kerrey has brought up Obama's links to Islam. On Sunday, Kerrey declared: "It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."
During his CNN appearance today, Kerrey denied that his remarks were an effort to "stir up" talk about Obama and Islam.
"There is a smear campaign going on, and people are acting as if he's an Islamic Manchurian candidate," Kerrey said. "And I feel it's actually a substantial strength. He is a Christian. Both he and his family are Christians. They've chosen Christianity. But that connection to Indonesia and a billion Muslims on this Earth I think is a real strength and will add an awful lot of value in his foreign policy efforts."
Watch the video below:
Update: Kerrey has made similar comments before, specifically in an October 30th article for The Economist (well before he endorsed Clinton).