- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump addressed the issue of electing a Muslim to the White House by saying he wouldn’t have a problem with someone who undergoes the intense scrutiny and vetting process that goes along with being elected president.

Mr. Trump says he has a lot of respect for retired neurosurgeon and 2016 GOP rival Ben Carson, who has said he wouldn’t advocate electing a Muslim to the White House.

“I think that basically, if somebody can elected, you know they’re going to be vetted,” Mr. Trump said on Monday’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” on Fox News. “And if somebody can get elected, that’s what it’s all about. It’s an electoral process, and I would tend to go along with that.”

“But I will say this: Ben was saying there are difficulties, and I think everybody knows what those difficulties are, and people want to be politically correct, but there have been difficulties and a lot of people agree with Ben,” Mr. Trump continued.

“I do think that Ben would also agree, though, if properly vetted, the proper people properly vetted, going through an election — I think that anybody that is able to win an election will be absolutely fine,” he said.

Mr. Carson said this week on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he doesn’t think Islam is consistent with the Constitution and that he wouldn’t advocate putting a Muslim in charge of the country. Mr. Carson did say on Fox News Monday he’d be open to a “moderate Muslim” who rejected things like Sharia law running for president.

Mr. Trump was asked if he wouldn’t have a problem voting for a Muslim candidate who is properly vetted and agrees with him politically.

“Well, they’d have to go through the long, hard process. It’s a long, tough road, Greta, I can tell you,” he said. “And it really is very revealing and I would have no problem with it, no.”

Mr. Trump said “of course” there’s a difference between “moderate Muslims” and “radical extremists.”

“I know some people, some Muslims who are friends of mine who are great people, fantastic people, and they are concerned with radical Islam, very, very concerned with radical Islam,” he said. “As much as you are, as much as I am. But you do have a problem with the radical Muslims, and the whole thing that’s going on around the world.”

“A lot of people don’t want to hear about it — they think it’s not politically correct to say whatever you want to say about it, but the problem exists and we have to talk about it,” he said.

A questioner at Mr. Trump’s town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week identified President Obama as a foreign-born Muslim, but Mr. Trump said it’s not his job to defend the president.

“I didn’t say anything, and it became this massive story and probably led to … Ben’s story,” he said. “But this gentleman got up and he made some pretty strong statements, and I think that … President Obama will be able to defend himself if he wants to.”

“If somebody says something about me, Greta, he’s not defending me — that I know for sure,” Mr. Trump said of the president.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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