Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president on Sunday morning as a candidate who was reaching out in a “more diverse and inclusive way across our society” and criticized the McCain campaign for its negative campaign.
The endorsement, on the NBC public affairs program “Meet the Press,” was a major blow to Senator John McCain, who has been a good friend of Mr. Powell for decades.
Mr. Powell told reporters after the taping of “Meet the Press” that he had been disturbed in recent weeks by the negative tone of Mr. McCain’s campaign, particularly its focus on Mr. Obama’s passing relationship with William Ayers, a 1960s radical and founder of the Weather Underground. The McCain campaign has sought to promote the idea that Mr. Obama is “palling around with terrorists,” in the words of Mr. McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, because of Mr. Obama’s weak links to Mr. Ayers.
“I thought that was over the top,” Mr. Powell told reporters. “It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth.”
Mr. Powell also told reporters on Sunday that he was troubled that a number of Americans believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, although he did not directly link that supposition to the McCain campaign.
In his interview he criticized those suggesting Obama is Mulsim on factual grounds because Obama is a Christian. But Powell went on, citing the a death in combat of a Muslim American soldier, to say that Muslim Americans are citizens with the same rights as all Americans.
He also pointed out the negative impact the Republican campaign tactics are having internationally: “These are the kinds of images going out on Al Jazeera that are killing us around the world. And we have got to say to the world it doesn’t make any difference who you are and what you are. If you’re an American you’re an American.”