Obama in a turban: Barack accuses Hillary of smear campaign after circulating photos of him dressed as 'a Muslim'
By DAVID GARDNER
Supporters of Barack Obama have accused Hillary Clinton of using shameful "smear" tactics after a photograph of him wearing traditional African dress appeared on the internet.
The snapshot, which shows Mr Obama, 46, wearing a white headdress and matching robes during a visit to Kenya, was published on a popular American website.
Campaign chiefs for the Illinois senator have reacted furiously, claiming the image had been leaked to stoke up fears of terrorism and associate Mr Obama with similar pictures of Osama Bin Laden.
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David Plouffe, Mr Obama's campaign manager, said: "On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive, fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."
Susan Rice, Mr Obama's foreign policy adviser, claimed circulation of the photograph was divisive, and suggested "the customs and cultures of other parts of the world are worthy of ridicule or condemnation."
But Mrs Clinton's election team angrily dismissed the claims, saying it was Mr Obama's response to the leak which was offensive.
"Enough," said Maggie Williams, Mrs Clinton's campaign manager. "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest a photo of him wearing traditional clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed.
"Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.
"This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and an attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry."
The photograph appeared on The Drudge Report, a website that links readers to breaking and international news stories.
It shows Mr Obama - whose father was Kenyan - being dressed as a tribal elder during an official visit to a Muslim area of the country in 2006.
The website claimed it was leaked by "Clinton staffers" and published an email from one, which read: "Wouldn't we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton]?"
Her supporters have already been accused of using scare tactics to derail Mr Obama's campaign to be the Democrat's nominee for president.
He has faced claims that he attended a madrassa - religious school - as a child when his family lived in Indonesia and he has endured repeated smears by Rightwing bloggers who have highlighted the fact his middle name is Hussein.
In December, a Clinton volunteer in Iowa was asked to quit after forwarding an email falsely stating that Mr Obama is a Muslim.
The dispute underlines how much is at stake at next Tuesday's primaries in Texas and Ohio. Mrs Clinton needs two large victories to remain in the running after 11 successive victories for Mr Obama.