Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who this week did not correct a supporter who had questioned President Barack Obama's religious faith and nationality, said Saturday that he was not obligated to defend the president.
Campaigning Thursday in New Hampshire, Trump allowed a supporter who called Obama a non-American Muslim to go unchallenged. Trump, chuckling, interrupted the accuser, saying: "We need this question. This is the first question."
Saturday, the Republican front-runner took to Twitter to defend himself after coming under widespread criticism for his silence:
He also said he doubted that Obama would come to his "rescue ... if someone made a nasty or controversial statement about me."
Trump, a billionaire real estate tycoon, fueled the so-called "birther" movement earlier this decade by repeatedly demanding that Obama prove he was not born in Kenya, as some of the president's fringe detractors have incorrectly asserted.
Several other Republican candidates, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, declined to comment Friday on Trump's exchange with his supporter.
The White House has described the candidates' silence as evidence of a "cynical strategy" backed by many Republicans.
However, another Republican candidate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, in a separate campaign stop, described Obama as "an American and a Christian" and said he would not lend credence false conspiracy theories about the president.