Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Friday that President Obama gives people reason to believe that he’s a Muslim.
Asked about polls suggesting many in the public continue to think Obama is a Muslim, Gingrich said in Louisiana that he takes Obama “at his word” that he believes in Christianity.
Then he launched into a riff on how Obama’s policies are excessively sensitive to non-Christian, non-Jewish faiths, suggesting it could raise doubts for some about where the president’s impulses come from.
“Why does the president behave the way that people would think that [he’s Muslim]?” Gingrich said. “You have to ask, why would they believe that? It’s not cause they’re stupid. It’s because they watch the kind of things I just described to you.”
The comment marks the second time this week that the issue of Obama’s religious faith has come up at a Gingrich campaign event, although it appeared to be the first time Gingrich has blamed Obama for public misperceptions of his religion. Obama is a Christian.
At a rally in Lake Charles, La., earlier this week, Gingrich ignored a statement by a town hall attendee who said he believes Obama is Muslim.
Asked afterward by a reporter why he did not correct the man, Gingrich did not answer directly but said that he personally believes Obama is a Christian.
“I believe President Obama is a Christian,” Gingrich said. “He says he’s a Christian, he went to a Christian church for over 20 years, and I believe him.”
Fox News Channel’s Greta van Susteren asked Gingrich about the exchange Wednesday night, and the former House speaker responded that the controversy over his failure to correct the questioner was “total baloney.”
“I was asked by a reporter immediately afterwards,” Gingrich told van Susteren. “I said of course I accept that he’s a Christian. The guy didn’t ask me a question. The guy got up and stated his opinion. I don’t have an obligation to go around and correct every single voter about every single topic. I also didn’t agree with him.”
Members of the GOP presidential field have frequently argued that the Obama administration’s new health-care rule regarding religious-affiliated institutions and contraception coverage amounts to a “war on religion.”
And Gingrich in particular has needled Obama for what he describes as “anti-Christian” policy stands, framing the debate as one in which Obama supports policies that favor Muslims more than those that favor Christian or Jews.
Friday marked a new twist in Gingrich’s statements about Obama’s own personal faith, however. And his spokesman, R.C. Hammond, reaffirmed the latest statement via Twitter in the afternoon.
“As long as the President gives (people) reasons to doubt - they will doubt,” Hammond wrote in response to a question from Politico’s Alex Burns.