At a town hall in Kokomo, Ind., Friday a woman told Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., that her mother wasn’t going to vote for him because he didn’t "address the flag."
"This is a phony issue," Obama said. "So let me address it right now."
ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports that the lanky Illinoisan said that "folks have been sending out these emails trying to make it out like I am not a patriot and I don’t salute the flag and I don’t pledge allegiance and this and that and the other. This is all phony. This is not true. You know, I’ve been saying the pledge of allegiance since I was what, four? Four years old. I lead, when I’m presiding in the Senate, I lead the pledge of allegiance, as the presiding officer of the Senate, when I open up the Senate, so it’s been on C-SPAN.
"There are two places where this rumor started," Obama said. "All right? Number one, we were at an event in Iowa and the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was being sung by a woman and the camera caught me, not, I didn’t have my hand over my heart while I was listening and singing along with her, not out of disrespect, just because I was listening to her song and thought, ‘Boy, I was getting into the song.’ Now, I acknowledge the mistake of not having put my hand over my heart during the singing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ although anybody who’s watching — I’m gonna look at all of you at a ball game one time and see if you always get it right, ’cause sometimes, we all, I just want to point that out, so that’s point number one.
"And the second thing, the way this has come up is the fact that I don’t always wear a flag pin. Now I don’t know if any of you who don’t have flag pins consider yourselves unpatriotic. I think you’re patriotic. The reason that I don’t always wear a flag pin is not that I disrespect the flag, it’s that when I started wearing a flag pin after 9/11, I gotta admit that sometimes I would misplace it and so I didn’t always put it on."
Obama then referred to the time last October, when a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV reporter asked him why he didn’t wear a flag pin.
"Then I was asked about this in Iowa," Obama said. "And somebody said ‘Why don’t you wear a flag pin?’ I said, well, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I said, although I will say that sometimes I notice that they’re people who wear flag pins but they don’t always act patriotic. And I was specifically referring to politicians, not individuals who wear flag pins, but politicians who you see wearing flag pins and then vote against funding for veterans, saying we can’t afford it."
(What Obama said last October was: "You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.")
Obama continued, saying "so I make this comment. suddenly a bunch of these, you know, TV commentators and bloggers (say) ‘Obama is disrespecting people who wear flag pins.’ Well, that’s just not true. Also, another way of saying it is, it’s a lie."
Obama finished, telling the crowd, "anybody who tells you out there that I disrespect the flag, that I don’t salute the flag, that I don’t say the pledge of allegiance, that I don’t wear flag pins — don’t listen to ‘em. Look at what I do and look at what I say and my commitment to making this a stronger country. And, you know, I get pretty fed up with people questioning my patriotism, especially a bunch of these folks who do who have instituted policies that have made America weaker. I am happy to have that debate with them anyplace, anytime."