This post has been updated.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the US “disqualifies him from serving as president” during Tuesday’s press briefing.
“The first thing that a president does when he or she takes the oath of office is swear an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he told reporters. “And the fact is that what Donald Trump said yesterday disqualifies him from serving as president. And for Republican candidates to stand by their pledge to support Mr. Trump, that in and of itself is disqualifying.”
Trump released a statement on Monday calling for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslims immigrating to the U.S. until “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” His remarks were widely condemned by Democratic and Republican leaders alike.
Reporters spent much of Tuesday’s briefing pushing Earnest for the White House’s response, and the press secretary was unsparing in his criticism of the GOP frontrunner. He said that Trump’s “offensive bluster” endangered national security and spurred Islamophobia within the US.
“The Trump campaign for months now has had a dustbin of history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lies to even the fake hair—the whole carnival barker routine we’ve seen for some time now,” Earnest told reporters. “The question now is about the rest of the Republican party and whether or not they’re going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him.”
The press secretary accused other prominent national Republicans of following in Trump’s lead, calling out House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for saying he would vote for him if he becomes the GOP nominee and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) for once referring to himself as white supremacist David Duke “without the baggage.”
He also insisted that any 2016 candidate who failed to condemn Trump’s remarks or vowed to support him as the nominee should be disqualified from ascending to the presidency.