Donald Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to defend himself against the backlash from a campaign event earlier in the week at which he declined to repudiate a questioner who said President Barack Obama is Muslim and that he's not an American. Spoiler alert: Trump didn't apologize.
The man who posed the question at a New Hampshire rally asked Trump "when can we get rid of 'em?" — a line that Trump's camp says he took to mean terrorist training camps rather than all Muslims.
Here's the original exchange, followed by a transcript:
Questioner: We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.
Questioner: You know he’s not even an American.
Trump: We need this question. This is the first question.
Questioner: But anyway, we have training camps brewing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of ’em?
Trump: A lot of people are saying that, and you know, a lot of people are saying bad things are happening out there.We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.
Trump got hammered by the left for at least failing to reject the questioner's ideas and at most capitalizing on nativist sentiment by endorsing the idea that it's all right to "get rid of" Muslims. Even some of his lesser Republican rivals called him out. The more generous interpretation is that Trump was simply trying to move on quickly from the questioner and wasn't really agreeing with him on anything.
His decision to defend himself on Twitter, a day after he skipped a planned appearance at a candidate forum in South Carolina, suggests Trump understands he's touched an electrified political rail. But he didn't apologize to Obama or anyone else. Instead, he ignored the part about who or what he might try to "get rid of" and focused on the president.
Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2015
This is the first time in my life that I have caused controversy by NOT saying something.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2015
If someone made a nasty or controversial statement about me to the president, do you really think he would come to my rescue? No chance!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2015
If I would have challenged the man, the media would have accused me of interfering with that man's right of free speech. A no win situation!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2015
Christians need support in our country (and around the world), their religious liberty is at stake! Obama has been horrible, I will be great— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2015
So, rather than saying he could have handled the moment better, Trump attacked Obama and the media and then said Obama has been terrible for Christians in the country — essentially reinforcing the idea that Obama is not Christian.There is one truth that Trump nailed: Obama's unlikely to rush to the defense of Trump, who built his political support in part by being a prominent "birther."
Here's what Obama had to say about Trump at the White House Correspondents Association's annual Washington dinner in 2011.