ROCHESTER, N.H. (CBSDC/AP) – Donald Trump is facing heavy criticism because he didn’t refute a supporter’s incorrect claim that President Obama is Muslim.
But the Republican frontrunner seemed to be taken aback in his reaction to a man at a political rally in Rochester, New Hampshire.
“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims,” said the first man to ask Trump a question at the town-hall style event. “We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”
At first Trump interrupted, “We need this question? This is the first question?”
“We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question,” continued the supporter. “When can we get rid of it?”
Trump never disputed the man’s allegations that Obama is Muslim, but said he has heard others make the same claims.
“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things,” replied Trump. “And you know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeted late Thursday that Trump should disavow comments about Obama and insults of Muslims.
“Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS (president of the United States) & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out,” she tweeted.
Trump rival Chris Christie, asked about the incident in a morning television interview, said that “if somebody at one of my town meetings said something like that, I would correct him.” But Christie, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show Friday, also said it is up to Trump to decide how to handle such situations, saying “I’m not going to lecture him about what to do.”
The incident evoked a moment during the 2008 campaign when Republican nominee John McCain took the microphone away from a woman who said she didn’t trust Obama because he was an “Arab.”
Trump’s questions about the president’s country of birth helped build his stature among some conservative voters and pushed Obama to release a copy of his birth certificate in 2011. But Trump has distanced himself from the issue during his current run.
Trump’s town hall, in a sweaty auditorium in Rochester, was also interrupted several times by a protester, whose outbursts were met by hostility from the friendly crowd.