© 2024 KGOU
Photo of Lake Murray State Park showing Tucker Tower and the marina in the background
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Donald Trump Fails To Correct Supporter Who Called Obama A Muslim


When an audience member at a Donald Trump event asserted that President Obama is a Muslim not born in the United States, Trump did not challenge it. And now a backlash after that exchange has put Trump on the defensive. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea reports this was just one part of a tough week for the presidential candidate.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: At his town hall in New Hampshire last night, Trump made an opening statement then went right to the audience for Q and A.


PRES CAND DONALD TRUMP: All right, let's start with this group right over here. Come on. OK, this man. I like this guy.

GONYEA: The sound system breaks up a little bit, but the man stood up and said, quote, "we have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one.

TRUMP: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You know he's not even an American.

TRUMP: We need this question - this is the first question (laughter).

GONYEA: Trump and audience members laughed. The man went on.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question. When can we get rid of them?

TRUMP: We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. 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.

GONYEA: Now, recall that during the 2008 presidential campaign GOP nominee John McCain confronted and corrected a woman who made a similar statement about Obama.


SEN JOHN MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with.

GONYEA: Last night, Trump just went on to the next question. Later, his campaign said Trump was only answering the part of the question about training camps. But his lack of setting the record straight has only fueled criticism, from the White House, from civil rights groups, from Democratic and Republican opponents. Here's New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on NBC's "Today" show.


GOV/PRES CAND CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE: And I wouldn't have permitted that. If someone brought that up in a town hall meeting of mine, I would've said, no, listen. Before we answer, let's clear some things up for the rest of the audience. And I think you have an obligation as a leader...

GONYEA: The claim that President Obama is not American and not born in the U.S. is one Trump, for years, has played a big role in perpetuating, even after the White House released Obama's long form birth certificate in 2011. Just two months ago, here's Trump talking to CNN's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER: Do you accept that President Obama was born in the United States and is not Muslim?

TRUMP: No, I don't know. I really don't know. I mean...

COOPER: You don't know.

GONYEA: Trump said he's past that issue and that he wants to talk about jobs, the economy and the military. But on those topics, he has yet to release anything close to specific policy proposals. Take the past few days. A speech he gave Tuesday in Los Angeles - on the deck of the battleship the USS Iowa - was promoted to be about national security policy. But he spoke just 13 minutes and offered only very general comments about fixing the Veterans administration and making America's military stronger. In Wednesday's three-hour debate, Trump was overshadowed for much of the night by Carly Fiorina, and he was silent for one long 37-minute stretch. When asked for specifics about what he'd do to convince Vladimir Putin to get Russia out of Syria, he talked more about personality.


TRUMP: I would talk to him. I would get along with him. I believe - and I may be wrong, in which case I'd probably have to take a different path - but I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with. We don't get along with China...

GONYEA: Now, Trump supporters haven't so far wanted specifics from him, and he has landed in hot water before in this campaign. Nothing has slowed his momentum, but the question is will this prove to be the week when that changed? Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.