Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, told the Washington Post on Saturday: “I don’t know” if President Barack Obama is a Christian.
Walker who is currently in Washington attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, told the Post, “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” and added, “I’ve never asked him that.”
Despite frequent reiterations from the White House and the president himself that he is a practicing Christian, raising questions about his faith has become a routine talking point on the right.
Since he first ran for president in 2007, some conservatives have suggested the president is a Muslim, the religion of his father’s birth. Many have argued that attempts to express ambiguity or ambivalence about the president’s religious background is part of a thinly veiled racial attack on Obama’s character.
A spokeswoman for Walker later walked back his comments, saying that “of course” he does believe Obama is a Christian. But Walker’s remarks are sure to raise eyebrows since they come just days after incendiary statements made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a private dinner held for the Wisconsin governor. Giuliani told the audience that he doesn’t think Obama “loves America,” at the event and later in a New York Times interview said “something’s wrong” with him.
Giuliani has since defended his controversial assertions, arguing that he cannot be accused of racism since the president’s mother is white. He also alleged that the president had been indoctrinated with communist ideology since he was 9 years old.
Meanwhile, unlike some of his fellow Republicans, Walker has refused to rebuke Giuliani’s remarks on Obama’s patriotism. Walker initially told CNBC, “The mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on whether—what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. I’ll tell you, I love America.”
Later, during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he said, “I’ve never asked the president so I don’t really know what his opinions are on that one way or another.”
During Saturday’s interview with the Post, Walker reportedly expressed frustration with even being asked about the president’s religious affiliation. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?” Walker said, according to the newspaper.
“To me, this is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press,” he added.