During his daily press briefing on Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to comments a man made calling President Barack Obama a non-American Muslim at a Donald Trump campaign rally.
“My first observation is, is any one really surprised that this happened at a Donald Trump rally?” Earnest said. “I don’t think anyone who has been paying attention to Republican politics is at all surprised. … The reason for that is the people who hold these offensive views are part of Mr. Trump’s base.”
The incident occurred when Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, took questions from the audience at a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday. A man who was in attendance asked Trump about Muslims in the U.S.
“We have a problem in this country — it’s called Muslims,” the man said. “We know our current president is one.”
The man then said of Obama, “You know he’s not even an American — birth certificate, man!”
In the leadup to the 2012 presidential election, Trump repeatedly raised widely debunked conspiracy theories that Obama was not born in this country.
At the rally, Trump implied that he did want to discuss Muslims, but he never addressed or refuted the man’s claim about the president.
“We need this question, this is the first question,” Trump said.
When the man responded that his main question was about alleged “training camps” and how we might be able to “get rid of” those camps, Trump gave a generic answer.
“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things, and a lot of people are saying that and saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things,” Trump said.
Trump subsequently released a statement saying rather than Obama’s religion or birthplace, “the bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians in this country.” His campaign followed that up by saying, “the question was specifically about training camps.” None of the statements from Trump and his team disputed the claims Obama is Muslim and is not American.
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