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Dear Media: It's not Trump's job to 'correct' everything his supporters say
It never takes long in a campaign cycle for stories like this to start showing up in the media. So-and-so says such-and-such that may be inaccurate, and a candidate who was present when the thing was said does not correct him! This phenomenon is especially predictable whenever someone levels a criticism of President Obama that the media has decided is verboten, especially when it involves the notion that he is a Christian (Obama says he is) or that he is a Muslim (Obama says he is not).
So you can imagine how hyped up the media got late this past week when a Donald Trump supporter asked Trump a question that included the premise that Obama is a Muslim. Here is the question that was asked: “We got a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. We know he’s not even an American … We have training camps brewing where they want to kill us. That’s my question. When can we get rid of them?”
The media headlines, as you might expect, did not concern the substance of Trump’s answer for how Islamic extremists should be dealt with. Instead, they breathlessly informed us, Trump doesn’t correct man’s assertion that Obama is a Muslim!
And you know what? It’s not Trump’s job to do that. He can if he wants to, but he is under no obligation to do so. People say things all the time at political rallies. Having run for president myself, I remember very well that plenty of people who supported me spoke up and said things at rallies, at candidate forums and in Internet postings. Some of the things they said may not have been factually accurate. But just because someone said something inaccurate in a public forum, even if it was offered as an argument on my behalf or a question posed to me, did not make me responsible for correcting everything they said.
That is a completely unreasonable burden to put on any candidate, and that’s the case whether you’re talking about Republicans or Democrats. The only person responsible for what the man said is the man himself.
It’s also worth considering what happens if Trump tells the man, “Now, President Obama is not a Muslim.” Because you know perfectly well what would come next: That would become the story. Trump would find himself barraged with questions about his defense of the president. He would be asked to repudiate everyone who had ever made the claim. Not only that, the media would pelt him with other, similar questions. They would demand to know if Trump believes Obama is a Christian too. If he said no, or that he didn’t know, they would rip him because Obama claims that he is. If he said yes, they would ask him to repudiate other Republicans who didn’t say yes when they were asked that question.
There is no winning with stuff like that. The only right thing to do is exactly what Trump did, which is to answer the question that was asked: What would you do about Muslim extremists who jeopardize our national security? And that’s exactly what Trump did.
That didn’t stop Hillary Clinton, of course, from tweeting the following: “Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out.”
Tell you what: When Hillary Clinton starts denouncing her own false statements – about her e-mail, about Benghazi, about cattle futures, about sniper fire in Bosnia, about Clinton Foundation finances, about being named after Sir Edmund Hilary, about vast right-wing conspiracies, etc. – then she can talk to The Donald about what he needs to do.