GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is embroiled in another controversy just one day after the second Republican debate, which put Trump and his remarks and positions on the defensive. Trump held a town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. At the event someone asked a question about Muslim extremism, except the questioner called President Barack Obama a Muslim. Trump let the comment about the president “slide” continuing to answer the question without correcting the questioner and Trump is facing a backlash for doing with criticism from the Democrats including frontrunner Hillary Clinton and even his Republican opponents. Still Trump’s camp is saying the candidate did not hear the question correctly, which is becoming the Trump’s favorite excuse.
At the New Hampshire rally’s question and answer period, one man asked a Trump a controversial question, “We got a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. We know he’s not even an American.” In between Trump commented with a laugh, “We need the question.” The man continued his question about Muslim extremism and American training camps, “But anyway. We have training camps brewing where they want to kill us. That’s my question. When can we get rid of them?”
Trump responded completely ignoring the swipe insinuating that President Obama is a Muslim. Trump explained in his response, “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. A lot of people are saying that. A lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking into that and plenty of other things. Christians need support in this country. Their religious liberty is at stake.”
Trump is facing a backlash for letting the question slide and not correcting the questioner that Obama is not a Muslim, and legitimizing the racist question by answering it. Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz issued a response criticizing Trump. In her statement the DNC chair expressed, “GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s racism knows no bounds. This is certainly horrendous but unfortunately unsurprising given what we have seen already. The vile rhetoric coming from the GOP candidates is appalling,”
The DNC Chair also expressed that Trump and the GOP “spew hatred,” calling him a racist. Wasserman Schulz said, “Still, the RNC chair believes Trump is ‘a net positive’ for the Republican Party. The fact is that Trump and his fellow Republican candidates who continue to spew hatred and divide us, are an abysmal negative for America as well and for the future of our political discourse.”
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton also used it as an opportunity to attack her main Republican opponent. Clinton took to Twitter, writing, “Hillary Clinton ✔@HillaryClinton Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out. –H 11:10 PM – 17 Sep 2015 2,5622,562 Retweets
Even Trump’s GOP opponents are trying to take advantage of the situation to gain some political points. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told NBC’s “TODAY” on Friday, Sept. 18, “I’ll tell you what I would do and I wouldn’t have permitted that if someone brought that up at a town hall meeting of mine. I would have said, ‘No, listen. Before we answer let’s clear some things up for the rest of the audience.’ And I think you have an obligation as a leader to do that.”
Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN that Trump only heard the part of the question about training camps, but not the comment about the president being a Muslim. Lewandowski explained, “All he heard was a question about training camps, which he said we have to look into. The media want to make this an issue about Obama, but it’s about him waging a war on Christianity.” While Trump emailed ABC News, “Christians need support in this country. Their religious liberty is at stake.”
The response was similar to what Trump used when conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked him earlier this month about Islamic extremist military leaders. Trump did not know the response and said he heard Hewitt asked something else.
Trump was a leader in the birther movement, consisting of mostly conservatives who do not believe Obama was born in the US, not a naturalized citizen and therefore ineligible to be president. Trump has been questioning Obama’s place of birth since 2011 when he first was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination.
The current GOP frontrunner was at the forefront calling for the president to release his long form birth certificate, when Obama released it Trump praised the he was the reason the president did so. Trump is still questioning if Obama was born in the US telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper just this July, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know why he wouldn’t release his records.”
Trump is not the only one that questions Obama’s birthplace and religion. According to a new CNN/ORC poll released Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015 20 percent of Americans do not believe Obama was born in the US, with 29 percent of Americans and 43 percent of Republicans actually believing Obama is a Muslim.