New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is calling out fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after he failed to correct a questioner who wrongly declared President Obama is a Muslim and “not even an American.”
“I wouldn’t have permitted that,” Christie told NBC’s “TODAY” on Friday morning. “I would correct him. I’d say that the president is a Christian and he was born in this country. Those two things are self-evident.”
Christie’s criticism of Trump, the GOP front-runner, comes as the governor tries to regain momentum after finding himself near the back of the pack of the crowded Republican field. During Wednesday night’s presidential debate in California, where he had a solid performance, Christie painted himself as the adult in the room, scolding Trump and candidate Carly Fiorina for bickering about their respective business careers instead of focusing on the American people.
Christie was asked to weigh in on how Trump handled the situation after an unidentified man made the initial remarks about Obama at a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday night. The questioner told Trump, “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.”
Trump – who earned notoriety in 2011 after claiming Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. – interjected, laughing, “We need this question. This is the first question.” The man continued, “Anyways, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question—when can we get rid of them?” The billionaire real-estate mogul failed to correct the man but said, “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.”
The exchange was reminiscent of one that 2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain had with a woman at a rally in Minnesota, in which he corrected her for calling Obama “an Arab.”
Christie was asked if Trump should apologize to the president and Muslims, to which the governor said his opponent needs to decide for himself. Christie said for him personally, “I think you have an obligation as a leader” to correct the questioner.
“Donald Trump has to decide how serious a candidate he wants to be and how he handles different problems like this are going to determine that in the eyes of the American people. I’m not going to lecture him about what to do.”
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton also came out swinging at Trump after he failed to challenge the questioner. “Donald Trump not denouncing false statement about POTUS & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out,” she tweeted. Similarly, on Friday morning, fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted, “Trump must apologize to the president and American people for continuing the lie that the president is not an American and not a Christian.”