WASHINGTON: The White House is blaming Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for the anti-Muslim rhetoric echoed at his rally earlier this week.

“Is any one really surprised that this happened at a Donald Trump rally? … The people who hold these offensive views are part of Mr Trump’s base,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Asked to comment on the remarks made at Mr Trump’s rally, Mr Earnest also blamed the Republican Party for encouraging such views. “I don’t think anyone who has been paying attention to Republican politics is at all surprised,” he said.

During a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday night, a questioner said to Mr Trump, “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.”

“Right,” said Mr Trump, while responding to his remarks, which encouraged the questioner to add: “We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”

Instead of countering the man, Mr Trump simply said: “We need this question. This is the first question.”

At the White House briefing, Mr Earnest pointed out that questions were not entertained at Republican Party rallies in the past.

He noted that the 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain challenged a supporter who questioned Mr Obama’s American citizenship.

“Now what’s also unfortunate is that Mr Trump isn’t the first Republican politician to countenance these kinds of views in order to win votes.

In fact, that’s precisely what every Republican presidential candidate is doing when they decline to denounce Mr Trump’s cynical strategy, because they’re looking for those same votes,” the White House official said.

“Those are the priorities of today’s Republican Party,” he said. “And they’ll continue to be until someone in the Republican Party decides to summon the courage to stand up and change it.”

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play