Conservative media figures rallied to the defense of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speculating that the attendee who posed a racially charged question at a New Hampshire campaign event was a plant, not an actual supporter.
Trump Supporter Claims Obama Is A Muslim, Not A Citizen
CNN: Trump “Under Fire” For Not Denouncing Anti-Muslim Questioner. On September 17, during a Rochester, New Hampshire campaign event, an unnamed man in a “Trump” t-shirt asserted that President Obama is a Muslim and not an American citizen before demanding that the Republican presidential frontrunner “get rid of” supposed Muslim “training camps” in the United States. CNN noted that Trump was “under fire” for failing to denounce the questioner as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had done during a similar situation in 2008 when he was the Republican nominee. From the September 17 Trump campaign event:
QUESTIONER: 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, birth certificate man.
TRUMP: We need this question. This is the first question.
QUESTIONER: Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question: When can we get rid of them?
TRUMP: 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. [CNN, 9/18/15]
PolitiFact: Claims That Obama Is A Muslim, Not A Citizen Are “Pants On Fire” Lies. On September 18, the independent fact-checking organization PolitiFact rated the questioner's claims that President Obama is a Muslim and not an American citizen as “Pants On Fire” lies. PolitiFact noted that it has been correcting these false claims since 2007:
We thought (hoped, maybe) the idea that President Barack Obama is Muslim from Kenya was dead and buried. But even in 2015, it lives on.
This myth has been debunked over and over and over again. We've been fact-checking claims about this since 2007, the year PolitiFact went live. Yet it resurfaced Sept. 17, 2015 in Rochester, N.H., at a town hall event for Republican presidential candidate and real estate mogul Donald Trump.
A recent CNN poll found that 29 percent of Americans and 43 percent of Republicans think Obama is Muslim. Let's revisit why we know this is not true. (He's actually Protestant.)
The audience member also said Obama isn't an American. In case you've forgotten, back in 2011 and 2012, Trump argued that Obama wasn't really eligible to be president because he was born in Kenya, not the United States.
This is also not true -- Obama was born in Honolulu. PolitiFact went to great lengths to document Obama's Hawaii birth certificate. See our guide to Obama's birth certificate. [PolitiFact, 9/18/15]
PPP: Majority Of Trump Supporters Believe President Obama Is A Foreign-Born Muslim. According to a September 1 survey from Public Policy Polling (PPP), nearly two-thirds of Donald Trump's supporters believe President Obama is a Muslim, and 6 in 10 believe he was not born in the United States. Such fringe beliefs are not solely held by Trump supporters, a majority of Republican respondents also believe the president is a Muslim:
Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country, and that immigrant children should be deported. 66% of Trump's supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12% that grant he's a Christian. 61% think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21% who accept that he was. And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, to only 20% who want to keep things the way they are.
Trump's beliefs represent the consensus among the GOP electorate. 51% overall want to eliminate birthright citizenship. 54% think President Obama is a Muslim. And only 29% grant that President Obama was born in the United States. That's less than the 40% who think Canadian born Ted Cruz was born in the United States. [Public Policy Polling, 9/1/15]
Trump Led Fox News Down Birther Rabbit Hole In 2011. According to an analysis by Media Matters, Donald Trump's initial foray into conspiracies about President Obama's birth certificate in 2011 encouraged numerous Fox News figures to embrace and promote the conspiracy. [Media Matters, 4/20/11]
Right-Wing Media Rallies To Trump's Defense, Call Questioner “A Plant”
Fox's Brian Kilmeade: The Questioner “Sounds Like A Plant, To Be Honest.” On the September 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy introduced a segment discussing Trump's response by saying “presumably it's a real person and not a plant, asking this question” to which co-host Brian Kilmeade responded that it “sounds like a plant, to be honest.” Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera described how, like the Tea Party, there are “some fringe elements among Trump's supporters” and reminded the Fox hosts that Trump was a “prime architect” of the Birther movement, which Doocy denied. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/18/15]
Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle: Questioner Was “A Complete Plant. It Was A Setup.” On the September 18 edition of Fox News' The Five, multiple co-hosts suggested that the questioner was inauthentic. Greg Gutfeld and Geraldo Rivera suggested that the person was an actor sent to the Trump rally by talk show hosts Jimmy Kimmel or Howard Stern, but still denounced Trump's response to the question. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle went further, announcing that she believed the questioner was “a complete plant” and “a setup” meant to embarrass the Republican frontrunner. [Fox News, The Five, 9/18/15]
Fox's Eric Bolling: There Is “Some Speculation That The Question Was A Plant, Just The Latest Example Of A Political Dirty Trick.” On the September 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, guest host Eric Bolling reiterated unfounded speculation that the man who asked Trump the question was, in fact, a “plant” in the audience and questioned whether or not media were “lying in wait ... [to] manufacture controversy” about the Republican frontrunner. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/18/15]
Ann Coulter: “I Say He's A Liberal Plant.” In a September 18 tweet, right-wing columnist Ann Coulter demanded to see a photo of the New Hampshire questioner and declared “he's a liberal plant” before defending Trump by noting that he “laughed at” the question:
How about a photo of the guy who asked the Muslim question? I say he's a liberal plant. Trump laughed at him. https://t.co/55u8699EOR
-- Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 18, 2015