He then paused for a moment and added, "Did I just say that out loud?"
Not surprisingly, Obama backtracked the next day, telling reporters he was just referring to the Quran's importance to the Muslim religion, and not to his personal feelings about the book. "I certainly don't ritually wash before I read it," he noted. "Um, when I read it, that is. Which is never."
He then pulled a copy of the King James Bible out of his desk drawer, and said, "If you don't believe me, I'll swear on a stack of these things - this holy book revered and read daily by us, you know, Christians."
When reporters noted the Bible was still sealed in its plastic wrapper, Obama abruptly stopped taking questions, knelt on his hands and knees on the small rug in front of his desk to "find a lost contact lens," muttered what some believe sounded like "Glory to my Lord Allah, the Most High Most Praiseworthy," and left the room hurriedly.
"This is no mere slip of the tongue - the president's statement showed his true colors," said conservative commentator Glenn Beck. "By which I mean black, in an Arab-y kind of way."
Beck, who recently held his "Restoring Honor" rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., noted that he did not burn any Qurans at his event. "Because frankly I didn't think of it," he said, breaking down in a steady stream of tears and sobs for several minutes.
Obama's comments come in the wake of the weeks-long controversy over the Rev. Terry Jones' plans to burn Qurans on Sept. 11 at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville. Jones scrapped the event at the last minute after a slew of calls asking him not to burn the books, including ones from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former President Jimmy Carter, actress and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie and hotel heiress Paris Hilton, although "We're pretty sure Hilton was just trying to score some coke," said Cpl. Tscharna Senn of the Gainesville Police Department.