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Clinton camp roots out a rogue element

March 14, 2008 |  9:20 pm

A work week partly consumed by an uproar sparked by controversial remarks by one of Hillary Clinton's high-profile supporters -- Geraldine Ferraro -- ended, at least at the presidential candidate's Philadelphia field office, with a minor flap caused by an anonymous backer.

The Times' Peter Nicholas was observing Clinton's grassroots operation in the City of Brotherly Love when a man who had been making calls at a phone bank on her behalf walked over, unbidden, to explain what motivated him.

"I'm supporting Hillary because I love the Lord and I don't want a person named Al-Barack Hussein Obama to be our next president,'' he said.

Told that Barack Obama is a practicing member of the Christian faith, the man said he believed Clinton's rival to be Muslim.

He went on to say that Obama "would be detrimental to the church.''

Nicholas relates that word of the incident ...

quickly spread through the suite of offices. And in short order, another campaign worker came over as the man was about to make another call and grabbed the campaign-issued cellphone out of his hand. The worker then escorted the man, who said he was 55 years old, out of the room.

A spokesman for Clinton's Pennsylvania campaign, Mark Nevins, who was in another office at the time, told Nicholas afterward: "That guy's not going to be making phone calls for us anymore. Sometimes people have their own agenda. And that's not what our campaign is all about.''

The ill-informed worker, however, was not immediately drummed out of the corps. Asked a little later what became of the man, Nevins told Nicholas that he was assembling Clinton yard signs. He added that other campaign aides planned to talk to him.

"I don't think we want someone like that associated with the campaign,'' Nevins said.

Nicholas on Thursday night had visited Obama's campaign's field office in Doylestown, Pa., about an hour north of Philadelphia, and was allowed free access to roam without an escort. But he found the Clinton office more buttoned-down; a campaign volunteer shadowed him throughout his visit.

-- Don Frederick

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