Trump fails to challenge audience member claiming US must 'get rid' of Muslims
Published 18/09/2015 | 16:28
US President hopeful Donald Trump stirred up fresh controversy after he failed to challenge an audience member who claimed the United States needed to “get rid” of Muslims.
The republican presidential front-runner was also criticised after he declined to correct the man when he said president Barack Obama was a Muslim.
Mr Trump, who has a history of controversial remarks about immigrants and other groups, was kicking off a town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire - his first since Wednesday evening's Republican primary debate.
The first man Mr Trump called on to ask a question 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."
Mr Trump, who was a driver of the "birther" movement that falsely claimed Mr Obama was not born in the US, first responded with feigned exasperation - "We need the question", he said, to laughs - but let the man continue.
The questioner continued: "We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question. When can we get rid of it?"
Mr Trump did not dispute the man's assertions and said he had heard others raise the issue.
He added: "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."
The incident evoked a moment during the 2008 campaign when Republican nominee John McCain took the microphone away from a woman who said she did not trust Mr Obama because he was an "Arab".
Mr Trump's questions about the president's country of birth helped build his stature among some conservative voters and pushed Mr Obama to release a copy of his birth certificate in 2011.
But the billionaire businessman has distanced himself from the issue during his current run.
After the event, several reporters asked Mr Trump refused to answer why he had not challenged the questioner's assertions.
Later his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN that "Mr Trump did not hear the question about Obama being a Muslim."
"All he heard was a question about training camps, which he said we have to look into," Lewandowski said.
"The media want to make this an issue about Obama, but it's about him waging a war on Christianity."
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Mr Trump should disavow the comments about Mr Obama and Muslims.
She tweeted: "Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS (president of the United States) & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out."
Fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders also condemned Trump in a tweet Friday morning, telling the real estate mogul in a series of Tweets that he must apologise.