New emails released by Wikileaks show that allies of Hillary Clinton received polling information about Barack Obama's ties to Islam during the 2008 Democratic primary.
The poll was discovered in the hacked emails of John Podesta, Clinton's confidant and her current presidential campaign chairman. The January 2008 email chain—titled "McCain Survey"—included a poll question about Obama's Muslim father and time spent in Indonesia, the New York Post reported. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) was the eventual Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Obama was Clinton's opponent in the Democratic primary.
"Obama (owe-BAHM-uh)'s father was a Muslim and Obama grew up among Muslims in the world’s most populous Islamic country," the polling script states.
Podesta did not reply to the email thread, but he was included on the email with other Clinton allies, including Paul Begala and Democratic pollsters with the Washington, D.C.-based firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
Begala, a Clinton surrogate and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, denied that the poll was commissioned by the Clinton campaign, despite being prepared in January 2008 when Clinton was still running against Obama. He said that it was commissioned by a Democratic super PAC to test weaknesses of both Democratic candidates.
"That was a draft poll questionnaire that tested potential right-wing attacks on Obama, to help prepare to defend him," Begala, who helped Bill Clinton be elected in 1992 and is working toward getting Hillary Clinton elected now, said in an email to The Post.
"I was part of a Super PAC called Progressive Media, which brought together Clinton and Obama supporters to prepare for the general election and support whoever won the nomination. I had no role in the 2008 Clinton campaign," he added.
At least one of the email’s recipients, Tom Matzzie, was an Obama supporter during the 2008 primary.
The polling group also tested Obama's cocaine use and support for gay adoption.
"Obama (owe-BAHM-uh) described his former use of cocaine as using ‘a little blow,’" read one statement.
"Obama (owe-BAHM-uh) is ranked as one of the ten most liberal members of the Senate because of his support of issues like gay adoption," read another statement.
Clinton ended up losing to Obama in the Democratic primary, but later served in his administration as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
After Obama won the Democratic nomination, Begala said the unity super PAC disbanded.
"We came together to plan for the general election out of concern that the long, difficult primary would damage the eventual nominee. After Sen. Obama won the nomination, his campaign issued a public statement calling on us and other independent groups to disband, so we did," he said.
Obama's ties to Islam and Islamic countries has been an issue during the 2016 presidential campaign because the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump started calling for Obama to release his birth certificate in 2011. The media and politicians from both sides of the aisle have criticized Trump for it, but he has made it an issue by accusing Clinton's campaign of starting the rumor back in 2008 when Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal spread around pictures of Obama in Arab garb.
A Republican Party spokesman told the Post that the email showed the Clinton campaign was willing to play dirty against its political opponents.
"Hillary Clinton may mimic the Obamas ‘when they go low, we go high’ line, but it turns out it was her campaign that first questioned President Obama’s childhood, faith and family in the ugliest of ways, and years before others," said Raj Shah, Republican National Committee deputy communications director.
"This is just the latest in her pattern of hypocritical attacks and dishonesty," Shah added.