That's the question asked by George Zornick in an article on Eric Alterman's most recent "Altercation."
He's referring to the brouhaha which has arisen when some truth-challenged media types said Obama referred to be of the Muslim religion.
This, from Mr. Zornick:
"You may have heard that Obama suffered a 'verbal slip' on Sunday, referring to 'my Muslim faith' in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on This Week. Naturally Drudge featured it, linking to The Washington Times, which seems to have been the first to write a mainstream story. But then so did Joel Thorton at The Dallas Morning News, as did Fox News, and the Chicago Sun-Times, and UPI too.
"Of course the 'slip-up' was even more widely disseminated by people on the Internet who are completely loony tunes. The more responsible (relatively speaking) mainstream accounts of this gaffe simply couched the story in terms of the fuel it provided the Internet crazies, although of course Fox News wondered 'whether Obama's misstatement will continue to fuel rumors of his faith, allegiances or patriotism.'
"Why all the coverage of what seems to be a simple misstatement -- nobody actually thinks Obama just revealed he was a Muslim, and yes, there are outlandish people on the Internet. So why take up valuable newshole with this? These questions are made even better by the fact that Obama didn't even make a verbal gaffe. He was incorrectly corrected by Stephanopoulos, and then subsequently taken out of context by these reports.
"Obama was suggesting that Fox News and others 'closely allied' with Republicans were pushing the idea that he is a Muslim. Then he said: 'Let's not play games. What I was suggesting -- you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith. And you're absolutely right that that has not come ...
"Stephanopoulos broke in and inexplicably 'corrected' Obama, interjecting: 'your Christian faith.' Obama momentarily agreed, but then explained 'well, what I'm saying is that he hasn't suggest that I'm a Muslim. ...
"So, in the course of an interview, Obama strings together the three words 'my Muslim faith,' gets a knee-jerk reaction correction from the interviewer, has the clip edited down and circulated all over the internet, and then has numerous mainstream outlets write about it. How are we supposed to conduct democracy like this?" [My emphasis]
The video is here and Zornick says "it makes this whole exchange even more clear."
Eric Alterman's "Altercation" is here.