Republican front-runner Donald Trump is well-known for his bluster and braggadocio, so many were surprised by his silence in the wake of biting criticism from his rivals for failing to correct a man who inaccurately described President Barack Obama as Muslim.
“This is the first time in my life that I have caused controversy by NOT saying something,” Trump admitted in a tweet on Saturday, more than 24 hours after first fielding the question in which a man described Muslims as “a problem” in the United States.
Trump failed to correct the assertion during a Thursday town hall event in New Hampshire that Obama — who was born in Hawaii and is Christian — is not an American and is Muslim. The lack of response triggered criticism from his opponents up and down both Republican and Democratic tickets, with candidates from Hillary Clinton to Lindsey Graham condemned him for not correcting the assertion.
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday for his first response to the controversy, arguing that he’s not “morally obligated to defend the president” whenever supporters make claims about 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!” Trump declared in one tweet.
A day after Trump ignited the latest controversy, he pulled out of an appearance at the Heritage Action Presidential Forum in South Carolina, citing a “significant business transaction” that needed his attention. Trump’s team told NBC News that the front-runner’s cancellation had nothing to do with anti-Muslim question.
Despite numerous skirmishes and feuds, Trump is still leading by double-digits in national polls, though some argued his performance during Wednesday’s debate was weaker than his first appearance on the debate stage in August.
The Heritage Foundation, an influential voice on the right, is headed by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who is a dominant with the conservative base in his early-voting home state. Ten candidates seeking the GOP nomination attended the forum.