Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to push back against those who criticized him for failing to correct a supporter who said President Obama is a Muslim and not an American. “We know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American,” said the man, who at one point also noted that “we have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims.” Both Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls criticized Trump on Friday for not standing up for the president of the United States. But that’s not his job, the Republican frontrunner for the presidency said on Saturday.
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
A few minutes later, Trump struck a bemused tone:
This is the first time in my life that I have caused controversy by NOT saying something.-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2015
Then he seemed to think up of a new line of defense, arguing that it was OK not to back Obama because the commander-in-chief would never do the same for him.
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
And 21 minutes later, Trump came up with a new explanation: He couldn’t say anything because doing so would have meant hurting his supporter’s freedom of speech.
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
Finally, Trump ended his Twitter defense by trying to change the subject away from what his supporter said and onto the issue of how Obama has been “horrible” at protecting the “religious liberty” of Christians.
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
White House spokesman Josh Earneston said on Friday that the statement illustrated the kind of supporters Trump has been attracting. “Is anybody really surprised that this happened at a Donald Trump rally?” Trump’s campaign manager insisted the candidate did not hear the part of the question in which his supporter mentioned Obama was a Muslim. Yet his failure to denounce the statement may really just be pandering to the majority of GOP voters—54 percent—who believe Obama is a Muslim, pointed out Slate’s Jeremy Stahl.