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S.C. Ministers Say They Don't Back Obama

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., talks with shoppers at a Hy-Vee grocery story as he checks out after buying fruit and cookies Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2007, in Webster City, Iowa. Carl Moen, a customer service agent presented Obama with a 'Vote For Me" name tag during his visit to the store. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
AP
Two black South Carolina ministers listed by Barack Obama's campaign as endorsing his White House bid say they did no such thing, and at least two others affirmed their support only after being contacted by campaign workers when questions were raised about their endorsements.

Earlier this month, Obama's campaign released a list of what it said were nearly 130 senior pastors in South Carolina endorsing his run for the Democratic nomination. But when contacted by The Associated Press, several ministers said they have yet to decide who will get their vote and were unclear how they ended up on the Illinois senator's list.

"I really haven't decided to endorse him yet. I was thinking about it," said the Rev. Clifford Gaymon of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in rural Clarendon County.

An Obama spokeswoman said the list was created after campaign organizers called ministers and asked to release their names publicly.

"We used all our resources to ensure we had the most accurate and up-to-date list, and we worked to check with everyone on the list," said South Carolina spokeswoman Amaya Smith. "It's a pretty long list of people."

But some ministers said their names were used without their permission. Gaymon, mistakenly listed as retired on the Obama list, said he's been to campaign events to find out more about the Illinois senator, but did not receive a phone call about making an endorsement.

The Rev. Michael Blue of Door of Hope Christian Church in Marion was added to the list without permission and has asked the Obama campaign to take his name off the list, said church spokesman Ronnie Green.

Inaccuracies and murky tallies are not unique to the Obama campaign when in comes to touting the endorsements of black ministers in this early voting state - rival Hillary Rodham Clinton ran into some of the same questions after her campaign released its list of endorsements from black ministers late last month.

Blacks comprise nearly half the Democratic primary vote in South Carolina, and the candidates are looking for an edge with the critical voting bloc.

The majority of people endorsing each candidate was accurate, according to the AP reviews, and many supporters said they are eager to lend a hand.

Both campaigns lists' had some sloppy record keeping: misspelled names, churches listed in incorrect cities and beside incorrect names. But, like Clinton's list, Obama has some other substantial inconsistencies.

When Obama's campaign released its list of ministers Dec. 4, it said everyone on it was a senior pastor, unless otherwise noted. That meant there were 122 senior pastors and three associate pastors of different churches and ministries, including four retirees.

Before supplying a second list to the AP a day later, the campaign withdrew two names and added one, and noted a fourth associate pastor. The AP review found at least two more associate pastors and a youth pastor's assistant.