From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
While talking to a group of Jewish voters in Boca Raton, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg called on those in attendance to defend Obama against a "whisper campaign" that the presumptive Democratic nominee is a radical Muslim and commended McCain for sticking up for his opponent.
Acknowledging that the rabbi said he could not talk about the candidates, Bloomberg said he was going to talk about the election process instead. However, he quickly brought up Obama's name, saying it was important as Jewish people and voters to "keep the conversation focused on the facts and not let it to descend into false rumor and innuendo."
"Unfortunately, we have already started to see that happen," Bloomberg said to the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. "As I am 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 these rumors what they are -- lies. They are cloaked in concern for Israel, but the real concern is about partisan politics and Israel is just being used as a pawn."
"We cannot be pawns in that process," he continued. "These demagogues are hoping to exploit the political differences between the Jews and the Muslim people to spread fear and mistrust. This is wedge politics at its worst and we have to reject it loudly, clearly, and unequivocally."
Bloomberg also stressed that the United States is a country that protects the freedom of religion, and the Jewish people "have a particular responsibility" to promote that. "We cannot allow people to go on and demagogue and use stereotypes and start whisper campaigns. It is an outrage and we of all people know how hurtful that can be."
But Bloomberg was quick to show he was not promoting one candidate over another, giving McCain credit for his efforts. "He's done the right thing by denouncing this whisper campaign, which speaks to his character as a stand up guy and an honest leader. And, after all, Sen. McCain knows what it is to be a target of a whisper campaign. He faced the same slimy low ball tactics during the 2000 South Carolina primary."