President Barack Obama sparred with CNN host Jake Tapper in a tense exchange over Obama’s refusal to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
During a CNN town-hall event focusing on the US military, Gold Star mother Tina Houchins asked Obama why he won’t use the term.
Some critics, including Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have argued that Obama’s insistence on not using the term to refer to terror attacks committed in the name of groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda shows that he isn’t well-equipped to fight terrorism.
“The truth of the matter is that this is an issue that has been sort of manufactured, because there is no doubt, and I’ve said repeatedly that where we see terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda or ISIL, they have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse, for basically barbarism and death,” Obama said.
“These are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves — there’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do,” he added.
Obama later seemed to allude to Trump as he continued to answer Houchins’ question.
“I’ll just be honest with you, the dangers where we get loose in this language, particularly when a president or people aspiring to become president get loose with this language, you can see in some of the language that we use, in talking about Muslim-Americans here and the notion that somehow we’d start having religious tests in who can come in the country and who’s investigated and whether the Bill of Rights applies to them in the same way,” Obama said.
Trump has suggested in the past that the US should administer some sort of test to immigrants to determine whether they have terrorist sympathies.
Tapper interjected to point out the allusion to Trump, and the exchange between him and Obama grew tense.
Here’s how it played out:
Tapper: Just to interject…
Tapper: You were clearly talking about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, just then. You think his…
Obama: No, I wasn’t. But…
Tapper: You weren’t?
Obama: No, I…
Tapper: Well, you just said…
Obama: I would just say this, Jake, because…
Tapper: …aspiring to this office…
Obama: No, but it’s not unique to the Republican nominee. And again, I’m trying to be careful. We’re on a military base. I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this. I think that there have been a number of public figures where you start hearing commentary that is dangerous because what it starts doing is it starts dividing us up as Americans.
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