Not morally obligated to defend Obama: Trump

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Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said on Saturday he was not morally obligated to defend Barack Obama after he let pass unchallenged a questioner’s assertion that the US leader is a Muslim.
In a rapid-fire series of tweets, the billionaire real estate mogul responded to a barrage of criticism of his handling of the incident, which came from Democrats and one fellow Republican candidate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don’t think so!” Trump said. Trump, who helped fuel a “birther” movement in 2011 by repeatedly demanding Obama prove he wasn’t born in Kenya, appeared to encourage a man at a campaign stop in New Hampshire Thursday after he made the incorrect assertion about Obama’s faith.
“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one, you know he’s not even an American,” the unidentified questioner said.
Trump chuckled and interrupted him to say, “We need this question. This is the first question.” Putting himself in Trump’s shoes, Christie said he would have corrected the questioner and said: “No, the president’s a Christian and he was born in this country.”
Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, called Trump’s handling of the incident “disturbing, and just plain wrong,” while White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was no surprise because “the people who hold these views are part of Mr Trump’s base.”
But Trump did not back down, saying Saturday it was the first time in his life he had caused a controversy “by NOT saying something.”
“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!” he said in his Twitter barrage. “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!”
The belief that Obama is a Muslim is not uncommon, particularly among Republicans. A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 29 percent of Americans believe it, as do 43 percent of Republicans.
Trump, who cancelled a campaign stop in South Carolina on Friday after the flap broke, was scheduled to make two campaign appearances Saturday in Iowa, the first state to vote in the Republican contest.
But South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was happy to criticize Trump, saying via Twitter, “There is a right way to handle these situations and a wrong way to handle these situations, Donald.”
Graham tweeted a link to a story about how he condemned a racist comment during a political event earlier this year in Iowa, and then beat the man who made it in a game of pool.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that “if somebody at one of my town meetings said something like that, I would correct him.” But Christie, appearing Friday on NBC’s “Today” show, also said it is up to Trump to decide how to handle such situations, adding, “I’m not going to lecture him about what to do.”
Others in the Republican field didn’t want to talk about it at all. At a campaign event in South Carolina, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz didn’t respond to questions about Trump or the president’s faith, saying “President Obama’s faith is between him and God.”
Cruz said “we’ve seen the rights of Christians undermined all over the country” under Obama, adding that he “has at times acted as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told an audience in Michigan that Obama is “an American. He’s a Christian. His problem isn’t the fact that he was born here or what his faith is. His problem is he’s a progressive liberal that tears down anybody that disagrees with him.”
Trump did not respond to shouted questions about the exchange as he left the event, but his campaign released a statement in response that focused on the treatment of Christians in the country.
“The media wants to make this issue about Obama. The bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians in this country,” it read. “Christians need support in this country. Their religious liberty is at stake.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said that the room was noisy and that Trump had trouble hearing the question. But the questioner was speaking into a microphone, and his remarks could be heard clearly by several journalists sitting near the back of the gymnasium.

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