The round table was discussing a since-discredited story that ran in Insight Magazine entitled "Hillary's team has questions about Obama's Muslim background." The story cited unnamed sources that claimed that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat who has announced her candidacy for president, was looking into whether Obama's Indonesian elementary school was a "madrassa" that "espous[ed] Wahhabism, a form of radical Islam."
Clinton's campaign said there was absolutely no truth to the magazine's claim.
"We have no connection to this story and think it's deplorable," said Phil Singer, a Clinton campaign spokesman. "It's an attack on both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama."
The story seems to have started with Insight magazine, then bounced to Fox News Channel, then to myriad other conservative media outlets including the popular Rush Limbaugh radio program. Often hosts repeating the false charges did so while bemoaning the notion that the Clinton campaign was investigating Obama's past, a charge that remains unproven and unsubstantiated.
Some political observers wondered if there was a political element to the Obama pushback; that, in addition to shutting down the false story, Obama strategists sought to rally the liberal base by painting their candidate as a victim of conservative news outlets, much in the same way the Bush White House has sought to rally his base by slamming the New York Times.
Obama's representatives have stressed the senator's Christianity.
"To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim and is a committed Christian," said Obama's communications director Robert Gibbs in a statement Wednesday.
An ABC News poll from last September indicated that 46 percent of Americans express an unfavorable opinion of Islam. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll from last summer indicated that 54 percent of the American people would not vote for a Muslim for president.
Obama's autobiography, "Dreams from My Father," details the freshman senator's early life, including how his parents a secular Muslim named Barack Hussein Obama Sr. and a secular Christian Ann Dunham, who lived in Hawaii -- divorced when he was only 2.
When Obama was 6, his mother remarried Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian oil company manager, and the family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Obama's sister was born. In "Dreams from My Father," Obama writes that like "many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths."
When he was 10, Obama moved back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents and attend the elite Punahou School.
Obama addressed faith in public life at a church last summer.
"I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just 2, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist," he said. "My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I've ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I."
Obama eventually became a devout Christian and member of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago.
Dina Antonio in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Sheila Evans in Washington contributed to this report.