Republican front-runner Donald Trump wasn't backing down Saturday morning in the face of growing controversy over his failure to correct a man at a New Hampshire campaign event who called President Barack Obama a Muslim, saying in a series of Twitter
posts that he doesn't think he's "morally obligated" to protect the president from negative comments.
Starting about 9 a.m., Trump fired off a series of five tweets, which have already attracted thousands of "favorite" marks and retweets:
Trump's latest controversy began on Thursday at a Rochester, New Hampshire, event
when he called a man in the audience member who said: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American."
"Right," Trump said, nodding and not challenging the questioner's comments, instead saying that "a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there," and promising to look further into the complaint.
The controversy is growing, reports CNN
, because Trump has been one of the most vocal skeptics about the president's faith and birthplace for years, spurring a "birther" conspiracy theory by demanding the president release his full birth certificate.
He also suggested to Fox News in 2011 that the birth certificate could have "something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is Muslim."
Obama eventually posted his birth certificate after a press conference ridiculing Trump's "silliness," with staffers posting it on the White House briefing room to give reporters a permanent answer, and the document remains on the White House's website
But still, Trump did not relent, including in 2012, after Madonna called Obama a "black Muslim" on stage and later said her comments were ironic.
Even this year, Trump commented at an Iowa candidate forum that he doesn't know if the president "loves America."
Trump's campaign manager told CNN on Thursday that the real estate mogul did not hear the first part of the man's statement at the New Hampshire event, claiming that all he heard was a question about training camps.
"The media want to make this an issue about Obama, but it's about him waging a war on Christianity," Trump spokesman Corey Lewandowski told CNN.
Most Trump supporters, however, believe Obama is a Muslim, a CNN/ORC
poll revealed earlier this month, showing that 54 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama is a Muslim, and among Republicans nationwide 43 percent think he's a Muslim, and 29 percent of Americans also hold that belief.
But that doesn't mean all Republican politicians hold that view, although they disagree with the president on political issues.
During a town hall meeting in 2008, GOP nominee John McCain took the microphone away from a woman who called Obama "an Arab," and on Friday, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed Trump
for his lack of action, saying Trump missed a "defining moment" by not correcting the speaker.
"You need to look the guy in the eye and say, 'listen, I don't agree with you, I don't appreciate what you said,'" the South Carolina senator told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell
on her news program Friday. You just go right at him and say 'you know, I don't buy this idea about President Obama being a Muslim.'"
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