The phone at Town Hall was ringing off the hook Monday following revelations over the weekend that Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk passed along a chain e-mail suggesting Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama is the Antichrist.
It was also generating a firestorm of criticism of the first-term mayor across the Web, with readers of sites like DalyKos ripping into Funderburk in less than pleasant terms.
Funderburk said he sent the e-mail to a small group of family and friends because issues revolving around Obama's religious leanings and political beliefs had come up among that group in conversation.
He maintains he was "just curious" about it.
"I do have questions about Barack Obama and his political and religious leanings," Funderburk said. "I know he went to a Wahabbi Muslim school and that's the most radical kind of Islam."
Wahabbi is the strand of Islam preached and practiced in Saudi Arabia and is among the most restrictive on women's rights. Saudi women are not allowed to drive and must be accompanied by a male family member anytime they leave the house.
"I know how ingrained my faith is and I'm just curious how he could walk away from it," Funderburk said. "The way they indoctrinate their youth is way more intense than anything we do."
Funderburk said he took the information about the Wahabbi school from the Internet. However, the story has been debunked by several news organizations including CNN. A Google search of the terms "Barack Obama madrassa" returned a CNN.com story debunking it as the first hit. Madrassa is a name for a Muslim religious school.
"I'm not a racist," Funderburk said. "This has no basis in skin color. It's political and religious."
Funderburk said he was not trying to perpetuate the rumor and that he never intended the message to go beyond the small group to whom he initially sent it. He said he's "not a big Bush fan or a big McCain fan."
According to the first-term mayor, "I've sent e-mails around about them too," he said.
"This is a political season. I'm just trying to get some answers."
The e-mail has attracted attention from local residents and people who read about it online following a story that was broadcast Sunday on NBC TV's Charlotte affiliate.
"We've had a number of phone calls about it," Town Manager David Hudspeth said. "But it's not an overwhelming number of calls. We're still able to conduct city business."
According to a copy of the message obtained by the Fort Mill Times Funderburk forwarded an e-mail last Thursday that ponders whether or not Obama could be the Antichrist to at least five other people. The message claims the book of Revelations says "The Anti-christ [sic] will Be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with Persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says That people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace."
The message, which is signed by a Dr. John Tisdale, has been debunked by several Web sites including snopes.com. Obama has said on numerous occasions that he is a Christian. Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, also claims to be a Christian. Islam did not become a religion until more than 500 years after the Book of Revelation was believed to have been written.
The Fort Mill Times received about a dozen e-mails - mostly from people living outside the state - either blasting Funderburk or mocking him.
Joan Mrotek of Illinois wrote, "Was he REALLY the best person you could find for the job of mayor? I would NEVER, ever consider visiting your city with a racist like this person in the top job."
Beverly Tatum of Waxhaw, N.C., wrote that Funderburk should resign or be fired. He should also apologize to Obama, Tatum wrote, and go home and reread his Bible. Funderburk's forwarded e-mail distorts the Book of Revelations, she added.
"Barack Obama is an American-born Christian man," Tatum wrote. "Shame on your Mayor for making Fort Mill look like a typical Southern racist redneck town!"
Reporter Jenny Overman contributed to this story.
E-mails regarding Funderburk's comments:Editor's note: The following excerpts are from e-mails sent to the
Fort Mill Timessince Monday, Sept. 29. They have not been edited for style, grammar or spelling. Some have been edited for length and language we don't consider appropriate for a family publication, In others, potentially libelous content was removed.
As a S.C. registered voter, I was utterly embarrassed to see that your mayor, Danny Funderburk, made national news by claiming he "wasn't sure if Barack Obama was the anti-Christ." Statements like this one are riddled with ignorance. As an elected official, Mayor Funderburk should perhaps think before he speaks (and forwards ridiculous emails.)Barack Obama is not a Muslim and has never been a Muslim. He is a Christian man who has spent his entire adult career advocating for the middle class and the working poor.
There is no such verse in Revalations that supports this ludicrious claim. Passing along such a lie is an insult to the tens of thousands of South Carolinians who support Barack Obama for president.
Karen E. Moldovan
Are you all uneducated there or just the rednecks? How can you have such an uneducated man for Mayor? Are you so backward there that you would actually elect someone who is so stupid?
I read the Mayor's rebuttal somewhere actually defending what he did. Saying that Barack is the right age and is a Muslim (not) etc to qualify for being the anti-christ so he thought it was an intelligent thing to be asking. The anti-christ is in every closed off bigoted mind that thinks this way. This country will never be great until that kind of thoughtless, over-the-top bigoted thinking ends. And to think an elected official is saying these things. Makes me shutter.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
I know you are receiving a lot of emails about this, but Danny needs to turn off the Fox News for a few minutes before he writes his resignation letter. He claims that :"I know he went to a Wahabbi Muslim school and that's the most radical kind of Islam."
If Danny spent more time researching facts than clicking the forward button, he wouldn't be in his current mess
Fort Mill Township
This letter is in regards to the current e-mail situation involving Mayor Funderburk. He simply forwarded an e-mail-don't we all do that? The content in the e-mail is just an opinion on questionable facts of an investigative reporter-why is he not being put under the microscope? or better yet why is no one making a fuss over the person who sent the e-mail to the mayor.
It just seems people enjoy trying to stir up controversy and trouble to see how far it will go and it sickens me. Do people not have anything better to do or write about? What did he do that was so wrong other than forward an e-mail to family and friends that had been forwarded to him about political candidate Barack Obama? Would this have been blown up if were about Senator McCain?
Mayor Funderburk never stated he believed or agreed with the content in the e-mail so what is the big deal?
Saying that he was "just curious" about the possibility of Barack Obama being the antichrist Mayor Danny Funderburk forwarded a chain e-mail that suggested as much. In defending his actions Mayor Funderburk says, "I was just curious if there was any validity to it." The mayor also said, "I was trying to get documentation if there was any scripture to back it up."
Is he serious?
Even worse, Mayor Funderburk's idea of performing research in an effort to find biblical scripture to "back it up" is to forward on a chain email that was debunked several months ago. The supposed biblical scripture that his email was referring to doesn't even exist! Here's a suggestion for the mayor: If you're gonna be a bible thumper at least read the book!
What an embarrassment
Just a heads-up that people living in obscure places around the world who have never known about Fort Mill is now frantically looking up your city to see what kind of people might have elected a guy who calls Obama the anti-Christ.
Personally, I think all Christians should be darn offended at this reference. Imagine if someone circulated emails questioning if your son or brother or father was the anti-Christ? And by the way, the anti-Christ is supposed to be loved by all. With all the evidence of racial hate in America, I would imagine that the anti-Christ would not make the impossible blunder of showing up as a black man with an Arab name. Far too risky, especially in some states.
There is nothing worse than a false Christian who spews lies acting as if they come from the Bible! Your mayor is supposed to be a leader, not a racist who drags false religion into his political office. He should resign, be fired, apologize to Barack Obama, and go home and actually read the Bible he beats.
The Book of Revelations in no way describes the Antichrist as your ignorant Mayor has distorted it. Barack Obama is an American-born Christian man.
Shame on your Mayor for making Fort Mill look like a typical southern racist redneck town!
I just read about how your mayor forwarded an e-mail chain letter
questioning whether Barack Obama is the anti-christ. Wow! Is every single citizen of Ft. Mill embarrassed that this clown is your mayor, or is Ft. Mill the Land That Time Forgot?
Lake Worth, Fla.