- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2015

The White House castigated Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump Friday for failing to confront a campaign supporter who said President Obama is a Muslim and had urged the candidate to “get rid” of Muslims in the U.S.

“Is anybody really surprised that this happened at a Donald Trump rally?” asked White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “The people who hold these offensive views are part of Mr. Trump’s base.”

Mr. Earnest also said the expressions of bigotry are common among other GOP presidential candidates who haven’t challenged Mr. Trump’s views against illegal immigrants.

Mr. Trump isn’t the first Republican politician to countenance these kinds of views in order to win votes,” Mr. Earnest said. “That’s precisely what every Republican presidential candidate is doing when they declined to denounce Mr. Trump’s cynical strategy, because they’re looking for those same votes.”

At a campaign event in New Hampshire Thursday night, a supporter told Mr. Trump: “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”

Mr. Trump interrupted the man, chuckling, “We need this question. This is the first question.”

The man went on to say, “We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. When can we get rid of them?”

“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things,” Mr. Trump replied. “You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”

The Trump campaign said later that the candidate believed the questioner was talking about getting rid of the supposed training camps, not getting rid of Muslims in general.

The real estate mogul did not correct the questioner about his claims about Mr. Obama, unlike Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who corrected a woman during the 2008 presidential campaign when she referred to Mr. Obama as an “Arab.”

“It is too bad that [Mr. Trump] wasn’t able to summon the same kind of patriotism that we saw from Senator McCain, who responded much more effectively and directly when one of his supporters at one of his campaign events about seven years ago raised the same kind of false claims,” Mr. Earnest said.

The president’s spokesman said the Republican Party welcomes such divisive rhetoric, citing GOP lawmakers who blocked immigration reform, opposed reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and “couldn’t support a simple funding bill because they’re eager to defend the Confederate flag.”

“Those are the priorities of today’s Republican Party,” Mr. Earnest said. “They’ll continue to be until someone in the Republican Party decides to summon the courage to stand up and change it.”

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