What do presidential candidate Barack Obama and Snapple Iced Tea have in common? Patricia Turner, professor of African American and African studies at the University of California, Davis, whose research focuses on urban legends and conspiracy theories, notes that Snapple had to grapple with two false rumors when it became a sensation in 1993.

Did you ever hear that Snapple has ties to pro-life extremists or that it was owned by the Ku Klux Klan?  We haven't either but apparently that's what some people said and some people believed. 

Similarly, Democrat Barack Obama has had to confront false rumors that he is Muslim, refuses to pledge allegiance to the flag and exchanges terrorist hand signals with his wife.   So  much for making the 'fist bump' what all the cool politicians will be doing.

She says part of the reason Snapple and Barack Obama were beset with false rumors: an unusual name (well, a middle name like Hussein, Obama says, was obviously not chosen by someone who knew he would run for president after a war against a guy named that)  and instant  product appeal.

Added together, Turner says, these factors can spark a popular backlash that manifests itself in the spread of unsubstantiated hearsay.

Apparently not considered by Turner; it's a presidential campaign.   Those rumors about John McCain dying January 21st so Sarah Palin can take over and put jackbooted Gestapo agents at abortion clinics aren't exactly grounded in reality either.  Unsubstantiated hearsay are how campaigns are won - Lyndon Johnson made a whole career out of starting rumors about opponents.     The "October Surprise" came into existence for a reason - it works.    So if 

Turner will discuss the issue in a presentation at the American Folklore Society in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday, Oct. 23.  Turner's talk will take place at 5:15 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  More details: http://www.afsnet.org/annualmeet/index.cfm