Gaffe Track: Trump's Islamophobic Indulgence

Brian Snyder / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: still Donald Trump.

The gaffe: At an event in Rochester, New Hampshire, a man said this to Trump: “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American …. Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?” Trump answered, in typically non-specific fashion, “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things,” but didn’t contradict the idea that President Obama, an American-born Christian, is a non-American Muslim, nor did he disagree that Muslims are a problem.

The defense: The campaign says Trump just meant he’d look into getting rid of the alleged camps, not Muslims. But it’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a guy who loudly demanded Obama’s birth certificate in 2011 and in July suggested he still harbors questions about the president’s nationality.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Declining to push back on these bigoted comments, and ratifying the birther premise, ought to be disqualifying. But everyone knows how previous “disqualifying” moments have hurt Trump: Not at all.

The moral: If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad should probably avoid the White Mountains.