“The RNC rejects these kinds of campaign tactics," RNC Chairman Mike Duncan said in a statement. "We believe this election needs to be about the critical issues confronting our nation.”
The statement in question, which was released Monday, said the state party is joining a "growing chorus of Americans concerned about the future of the nation of Israel…if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States.” It also included a photograph of Obama from a 2006 trip to Kenya in which he is dressed in traditional attire worn by area Muslims.
The press release was sparked by recent praise for the Illinois senator from Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan, who has made several derogatory remarks about Judaism and has indicated his support for Obama. At Tuesday night's MSNBC debate, Obama said he denounced those comments and did not seek Farrakhan's support.
On Wednesday night the party removed both the photo and the reference of Hussein from the statement after Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander called to express his belief that using them had become a distraction, Tennessee GOP Communications Director Bill Hobbs told CNN.
The press release now includes a clarification that reads: "This release originally referenced a photo of Sen. Obama and incorrectly termed it to be “Muslim” garb. It is, in fact, Somali tribal garb, hence, we have deleted the photo. Also, in order to diffuse attempts by Democrats and the Left to divert attention from the main point of this release — that Sen. Obama has surrounded himself with advisers and received endorsements from people who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel — we have deleted the use of Barack Obama’s middle name."
Hobbs told CNN the party will no longer use Obama's middle name in forthcoming press releases.
"We're not going to be using the middle name now because apparently it's become a distraction," he said. "But I would note not too long ago I saw a wire story out of the Middle East that talked about how a lot of people there are hungry for Obama to win and in part because his middle name gives him a connection, and that story used his middle name, so we're not the first people to notice and use his middle name."