White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Friday spoke out forcefully against Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s failure to correct a voter who called President Barack Obama a Muslim, turning his criticism into a harsh indictment of Republicans at large.
During a press briefing, Earnest noted that people who believe the President, a Christian, is a secret Muslim are the base of Trump’s formidable support.
“Mr. Trump himself would be the first to tell you he’s got the biggest base of any Republican politician these days,” he told reporters. “Now, it is too bad that he wasn’t able to summon the same kind of patriotism that we saw from Sen. McCain, who responded much more effectively and directly when one of his supporters at one of his campaign events about seven years ago raised the same kind of false claims.”
Earnest faulted other GOP presidential candidates for failing to call out Trump’s “cynical strategy” of sympathizing with “birthers” to win their votes. Without mentioning him by name, Earnest singled out House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) for similar pandering.
“Other republicans who successfully used this strategy as well,” he said. “You will recall one Republican congressman told a reporter that he was ‘David Duke without the baggage.’ That congressman was elected by a majority of his colleagues in the House of Representatives to the third highest ranking position in the house.”
The press secretary then lit into Congressional Republicans over racially charged issues like voting rights and the Confederate flag.
“Those same members of Congress blocked immigration reform,” he said. “Those same members of Congress opposed reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Those same members of Congress couldn’t support a simple funding bill because they are eager to defend the Confederate flag. So those are the priorities of today’s Republican Party and they will continue to be until someone in the Republican Party decides to summon the courage to stand up and change it.”