Senator Hatch Clarifies Remarks About the Name “Osama,” Apologizes for Giving Offense Senator and Presidential Candidate Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) sent a letter dated Sept. 28 to ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish clarifying remarks he made on CBS‘ Sunday morning television program “Face the Nation” about the name “Osama.” On August 8, 1999, Senator Hatch told CBS the audience that “There are apparently a number of top Arab–wealthy Arabs who are also funding Osama bin Laden. We understand a number of children are being named Osama over there. So they’re glorifying this person.” ADC wrote to Senator Hatch expressing deep concern with both elements of this statement, which falsely suggest that there is evidence of wide-spread support for Osama bin Laden in the Arab world, and which appeared to stigmatize those who would name their children Osama. Many ADC members and activists also wrote to the Senator expressing their dismay.
This dismay was compounded when Jeff Flint, Press Secretary for the Hatch for President Campaign, repeated the charge in the Detroit Free Press on August 14. In defense of the Senator‘s remarks, Mr. Flint was quoted by the Free Press as saying that “‘He made a factual statement … since the embassies blew up, the number of boys being named Osama are going up. Some of that has to be related.” In his letter to ADC Senator Hatch replied that “on reflection, my comment was vague.” He wrote that by “there” he did not mean the Arab world at large, but “refugee camps on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He added that, with few exceptions, these unfortunate people are not Arabs, and that he does believe that for many of them Mr. Bin Laden is “a type of hero, and that naming of sons is a form of tribute or honor.” “I regret that I did not make that clear in my remarks,” wrote Senator Hatch. He added that he did not believe that Mr. Bin Laden “is widely popular among any segment of the Arab society. Such a notion would be contrary to anything I have heard or read in years of watching developments in the Arab world.” Senator Hatch wrote that “However, I recognize my statement‘s lack of clarity, and I am truly saddened that this may have offended anyone, as you suggest.” ADC thanks Senator Hatch for his clarification and his courteous reply.