John McCain yesterday repudiated a conservative talk radio host who introduced the presumptive Republican nominee at a Cincinnati rally by taking a few swipes at Obama’s middle name. The New York Times captured the scene:

Bill Cunningham, who hosts “The Big Show” with Bill Cunningham, a local program here that is also syndicated nationally, was part of a line of people lauding Mr. McCain and revving up the crowd before his appearance here before several hundred people at a theater here.He lambasted the national media, drawing cheers from the audience, for being soft in their coverage of Mr. Obama compared to the Republican candidates, declaring they should “peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama.”He went on to rail, “at one point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and start covering Barack Hussein Obama.”

Asked about the remarks at a press conference later in the day, here’s how McCain responded:

“Whatever suggestion that was made that was any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong. I condemn it, and if I have any responsibility, I will take the responsibility, and I apologize for it.”

Still, God-o-Meter doubts the case is closed on the use of Obama’s middle name for the rest of the campaign season. In this instance, Cunningham went further than merely invoking Obama’s middle name and played into the false rumor that Obama is Muslim by pointing to the need to “peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama.” But what about more innocuous mentions of his middle name? As Doug Wead notes, it’s hardly unusual for presidential candidates to be known by their full name. Take Hillary Rodham Clinton. Or George Herbert Walker Bush. Or W. So will it ever be fair game for Obama’s opponents to cite his middle name?5

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