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Barack Obama makes a one-fingered gesture while speaking of Hillary Clinton

This is one of those political moments that really needs few words.

We'll no doubt hear much more about this incident in coming days.

Right now, we'll just leave this video for Ticket readers to view and judge for themselves. It's Sen. Barack Obama, according to the caption on YouTube posted just minutes ago, speaking to a friendly crowd in Raleigh, N.C., today.

He's talking critically about his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, and the kind of distasteful gotcha politics that occur in Washington. And he says, "That's all right. Sen. Clinton looked in her element."

Watch the video right then. The presidential candidate raises his right hand to seemingly scratch his cheek.

He doesn't use his whole hand though. Just one finger. Briefly. A couple of strokes.

Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Senator Barack Obama touches his cheek with one finger while criticizing his opponent New York Senator Hillary Clinton April 17, 2008 during remarks in Raleigh, NC

He pauses. He smiles slyly as the crowd begins to mumble and then he tries, somewhat distracted, to continue his remarks, smiling as the buzz spreads through the crowd.

He'll no doubt deny it later, but that mischievous smile seems to confirm plenty. And the crowd sure sees something.

(UPDATE: A new item has been posted on the Obama campaign's reaction to this issue, calling it "absurd and untrue.")

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Mr. Malcolm,

You continue on with your choice of blogs to post. Some are indeed quite questionable, some hilariously funny and some are factual and thought provoking. I think your doing your job.

But, these idiots who criticize your choices don't understand that you are "finally" reaching out to those who don't give a damn about boring politics. Steak is not delicious without the spices...continue on my good fellow!

I just wish the new media would do their reseach before they run with a story they get from the web or from each other for that matter. If you look at some of his other speeches you will find he oftens uses his finger to touch his face. He is left handed and that makes him Right Minded. When I read something in the news or see something on TV I don't trust them any more. Also you put up a still picture if you let the film keep moving you will see he is scarching his face. Something we all do.
Know the Facts. LATimes what a low life.

To everyone who's claiming two different venues, check the captions. There are actually at least five different _angles_ of this speech I've seen (but only one speech). They're all the same Raleigh, NC rally.

Also if you take the time watch the side-view angle where all his fingers are visible throughout the entire cheek scratch you'll see he had two fingers extended together the whole time. This story isn't real and the author owes Sen. Obama a retraction (and an apology) for stirring the pot with something so incendiary.

Give me (and every other reader) a break and knock off this moronic gossip. It discredits you, this site, and the LA Times.

Political discourse has descended to the level of sandbox toy-tossing, thanks to the kind of childish nothing reporting folks like you disgorge with non-stories like this one. It's very clear that Obama's grin had to do with the WORDS he had just spoken, that "Sen. Clinton was in her element." But you, the "professional journalist," assure us the grin confirms your adolescent interpretation, that it's a "fact." And why do you suppose we've come to distrust journalists so much? What a shameful thing for an alleged "pro" to be putting out on a national level.

you must be joking. is this what you call journalism? you are a disgrace andrew. one more reason i'm glad i don't live in southern california any longer, i don't have to read your fishwrap. no wonder you newspaper can't make any money. what a joker.

This is the most juvenile, idiotic reporting I have witnessed during the entire campaign. Shame on you, Malcolm!

Yes this is stupid. Real stupid. I can't believe I'm even wasting time on this but let's get the facts straight at least. Anyone on this blog who is saying it happened at 2 events is simply wrong. There are multiple camera angles of the same event. Different idiotic media outlets with nothing better to report are all showing the SAME event from a different camera angle. Let there be no doubt. He didn't do the same thing twice. At least there is no EVIDENCE of it posted on this blog. Clearly this blog IS EVIDENCE of why the media wastes their time (and ours) on such trivial events...because we eat it up like ice cream. Really shame on all of us.

If the Los Angeles Times has integrity, they'd fire the miserable pleb who put this article up.

Michael said, "This is the saddest excuse for a "BREAKING STORY" that it should be aired on Fox and ABC. Let me guess, Hannity told you to post this"

Hey brainstem, "breaking stories" aren't covered only in BLOGS. Get a clue, mouth-breather.

Then again, you're of the stripes that if a news pundit doesn't constantly chant "Bush is Satan. Obama is Jesus" then he or she is a rabid right-wing extremist.

Go ahead, moron...try and find a news source more liberal than the L.A. Times. Sure, there are a few, but knowing your standards, not even Keith "Countdown to Low Ratings" Olbermann would be "fair".

Unbelievable, the Times must be hiring random guys off the street. When did they start this policy and can I be a sportswriter?

I tell you that some of these journalism degrees aren't worth the toilet paper that they're printed on.

He also scratched his face at :019 seconds. Was that some sort of secret sign?

Am I on the LA Times website or on Perez Hilton?

Get real and grow the heck up.

in November if Barry O is the candidate...

I love the Obama kool-aid drinkers having to deal with the bark being slowly stripped off their candidate. That is what all the squealing is about. They have too much invested and deep down inside they know problems are bubbling up on their guy.

All we have heard about for 8 years is how character counts. Well, it is about time we found out about Mr. Obama's character. One way is to find out about his character is by examining the people he looks to for advice, leadership, and hangs around with…terrorists and bigots. Very interesting.

Have you DEMS begun to realize how seriously flawed BOTH of your candidates are for the general election?

Except he's using two fingers.

Kill yourself, so-called journalist.

This isn't serious, right? You're not actually suggesting that this is an obscene gesture?

You almost had me going there...

It's a very well known rule in politics: When you're giving a speech with cameras around, keep your hands ON THE PODIUM at all times. Anyone who breaks this rule comes off looking like a total dork, as the cameras catch you at the worst possible moment.

Once again the media is picking at simple things...Why not go after Obama record. O that is right he does not have one. How can he say he can relate to me, I grew up in an urban area and want to public schools. He went to private boarding schools and Ivy League College. I don't know if he gave her the finger. Maybe he believes the gun and bible people do that (the finger) to make you feel better about yourself. Hilary is a strong WOMAN and strong women can take just about anything litte boys can dish out that includes the politican and media. YOU GO GIRL show all these young girls out there what it take to prove the so called big boys wrong.

I was among the skeptics initially, but after watching some other instances of him scratching his face, now have to think this was intentional. In all the instances of him scratching his face, he NEVER uses his middle finger except in this instance. It seems horribly far fetched, and it's hard enough to believe one professional adult would flip off another, harder yet to believe a presidential candidate would do it.

tonnes of frames.


stop this garbage and apologize, Andrew. BTW, you've been exposed. We all know now that you used to work for Laura Bush. Agenda much?

"Is Obama giving Hillary the finger?" Yeah, and Paul is dead (just turn the album sideways and you can see him in his coffin).
Have you "news" guys learned nothing from the ABC debate fiasco? GET REAL, PLEASE!

I find it immensely ironic that the man is talking about manufactured political distractions and this is what you come up with. I hope this is intended as a joke.

This only proves to me that 6 weeks off between primaries was too long for the media. Old or new, to not start pulling stories out of their collective rears.

I see 2 fingers up. It's just an accident that he made this gesture.

This gesture by Obama is childish and disgusting coming from a presidential candidate. Also the reaction from Obama supporters is typical, blame the messenger. Also Obama is only attacking Clinton while giving her a finger so he is not talking policy either. He is just politiking under the banner of change hope and clean campaign. He is worst than other politician and his facade is is fading fast.

Get a life and go out and do some real news reporting because this is crazy. Are you reporters so lazy and so hungry that you will say anything to make a story??
Get a Life

the neo-conservative special interest groups don't need obama's middle finger to destroy his campaign in the fall....

this is funny. it is also a story. by now most of the issues have been hashed out so many times people who don't know how the candidates stand on them are morons. now we see what the guy is like when he's not under the gun. A bit snide, more interesting than he has let on, and a bit edgy.

i am not an obama supporter, likely to vote for mccain. but i have to say the guy is funny as hell.

the ambiguity is delicious.

and for you whiners complaining about journalists not giving you the right type of information, christ on a crutch, we are AWASH in information. We know more about our candidates and their stands on issues than we have at any point in our nation's history. we have higher rates of literacy and 24 hour news cycles. all this sanctimonious whinging and whining about "This is not news ..." come on we've been devouring exactly this type of coverage since drudge report talked about the blue dress.


i'm sorry, but the story is legit.

cult: an instance of great veneration of a PERSON, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers.....yup, sounds like obama lemmings....


You are either insane, stupid, or a shameless tabloid reporter. The crowd clearly reacts BEFORE he scratches his face and his smirk is in response to the crowd responding to his jab at Hillary. The "two different events" are actually the same event from a different camera. His index finger is extended along with his middle finger, which would make it way too obscure for even a sly gesture. There's no way an entire room full of people would have noticed the gesture at the same time and all burst into applause at the same time BEFORE he even got his hand to his face.

I scratch my face like that because my middle finger is longer and it take less conscious effort to perform the task that way. This is shameless tabloid journalism at its most ridiculous. Shame on you and shame on the LA Times for paying you to write this trash.

is it impossible for obama to win in November, and his "supporters" will be a large reason why....

Two quick points.

First, my opinion is that,

on the one hand, Obama didn't **intend** to give Hillary the finger, but,

on the other hand, he realized what had happened unintentionally and was NOT AT ALL DISPLEASED at how many in the crowd interpreted his ... finger movements.

We'll probably never know.

Second, I see many folks shrieking that this blog entry is bad journalism. Sorry, it isn't. This is a blog devoted, by design, to hour-to-hour minutiae (and not-so-minute matters too). The blogger is not suggesting this is as important as a major gaffe or other scandal. But the crowd's reaction to the perhaps-unintended gesture, and Obama's quite satisfied-seeming reaction TO that reaction, make it a legitimate quick-bite newsblog entry. Anyone believing otherwise either doesn't understand blogs, is in the tank for Obama, or both.

Well the main problems with Obama are that he is a known racist, a proven liar, and a documented traitor.. So, he's also a classless jerk, too. Big deal. He was already a disgrace.

Wow. He was scratching his face. The crowd was reacting to him mentioning Hillary's performance at the debate.


You missed the real scoop! The woman in the red and white top behind Obama who is doing EXACTLY the same thing. She is the secret to the whole campaign, the power behind the throne, the woman who is obviously calling all the shots. Get an interview with her and you can really blow this whole thing wide open.

Glad to help.

No, you're wrong. What he was actually doing was to channel his fellow aliens from Mars, where he comes from, as everybody knows. Change your headline.

(Next question on ABC : It's obvisous you are an alien, M Obama, it's everwhere in the

Here's BETTER VIDEO if you really want to see the audience's reaction. If it was just "scratch", why did the audience go so wild when he did it?

His finger goes up at 1:24 and immediately the audience reacts, laughing and clapping, clearly reacting to the finger (he's not speaking at that point). In fact, ten seconds later at 1:34 we see a woman who had missed it told by her friend what had happened and she has a good laugh too.

I think it's clear that his audience took it to mean F-U, Hillary. Isn't that a pretty good indication it happened?

You must be really depressed about your job to run this story. Are you trying to push people to the point where they avoid newsmedia entirely?

What do I think? I think you're a frakking idiot. I scratch my cheek at you.

Unless this is parody. In which case, I think you're delivery is a little too subtle.

I think this nothing. I often found that I inadvertantly do the same. His smile, I believe is in reference to the cheers he is getting from the crowd.

By the way, I am a Moderate who will be voting for McCain. Obama has a lot to answer to, but this isn't one of them.

I think you're insane, Mr. Malcolm, that's what I think. There is no finger gesture, and it's obvious that the crowd buzz was in response to Obama's "Hillary in her element" remark.

This is not journalism; this is not reporting; this is not news; this is not informing the public. You need to be ashamed of yourself, although I know you won't be.

Obama is justa bout my last choice for President, but this is really a stretch.

You big dumb buffooons!

There is another video of this same incident but from another angle where he's CLEARLY SCRATCHING HIS FACE WITH TWO FINGERS but the biases LA Times (a joke) and Fox News (another joke) can't link to that one because it wouldn't make a good anti-Obama story.

Please. Pull your heads out of your behinds, wipe the crap out of your eyes, and focus on the REAL NEWS.

Aren't there American solderis dying in Iraq, people losing their homes in America, and food prices sharply rising? Can the media please be more responsible? Please, please, please focus on what really matters. Please.

What do I think? That your positing is just about the dumbest thing I've ever seen in an American newspaper. And "serious" journalists wonder why Americans are getting our news from cable comedy shows...

wow there really are alot of pro-O folks. back of the
kool-aid you would thing that Andrew was killing puppies and showing the vid on tv with the level of outrage in the comments. hey it looks like he was giving the finger so what it's kind of funny. Obama is just a guy i don't get why his followers have to jump in on every little thing like the world is ending oh wait this isn't a political movement it really is a cult.

We will never have a good presidential candidate ever again. The media will be there like dogs waiting for the scraps of a story to fall into their eager jaws so that they can rip anyone and everyone apart.

With 24 hour news coverage, Obama scratching his face becomes a top story of how he is an obvious permutation of evil.

I have a feeling Kennedy, Lincoln, Washington or any number of previous presidents scratched their faces too. There just wasn't a camera to catch it.

So if all the candidates are evil, who then do we vote for?

is this story a joke? this is what reporting has been reduced to? bad enough the pennsylvania debate spent 57 minutes discussing one out-of-context sound byte -- now were titillating readers with imagined innuendo? what is this -- middle school?

I watched this part of his speach on msnbc last night and other news hours and although no one said he was flicking his finger I saw him do it and wait for the clapping and then smirk....Obama knew what he did and did it delibertly......I wondered why the media did not catch it last night as I did. Obama supporters are the pretenders!

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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