Islamophobia in America is getting kind of awkward.
In an interview that aired Wednesday night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump — who proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States late last year — whether he believes Islam is “at war with the West.”
“I think Islam hates us. There’s something there — there’s a tremendous hatred there,” Trump said. When Cooper asked him to clarify whether he meant that Islam is inherently hateful, Trump responded, “You’re going to have to figure that out, okay? You’ll get another Pulitzer.”
The comments, like most of Trump’s pronouncements regarding Islam, quickly sparked controversy. But things went from outrageous to uncomfortable on Thursday morning, when MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott onto his show to discuss the Islamophobic remarks.
Scarborough opened his segment by offering the governor an opportunity to rebuke Trump, saying, “Would you tell your friend Donald Trump that he should walk back his statements that Muslims, that Islam, hates America? Do you think Muslims in the state of Florida hate America?”
Scott, however, repeatedly dodged the question, attempting to steer the conversation back to a discussion about Florida. Scarborough grew visibly frustrated with the evasive answers, eventually interrupting Scott to demand he respond to Trump’s accusations.
“I want you to answer the question!” Scarborough said. “Do you personally think that Islam is a religion that hates America?”
When Scott once again refused to answer, Scarborough audibly sighed before going silent. Co-host Mika Brzezinski can then be heard telling producers “wrap it!” before abruptly ending the segment, calling the exchange “kind of awkward.”
When discussing the exchange later in the show, Brzezinski said of Scott, “He chose not to answer…He chose to be weak.”
Scott’s refusal to disavow wholesale condemnations of the Islamic faith is especially surprising given that Florida is home to a number of established Muslim communities in places such as Tampa Bay. The governor did mention to Scarborough that Muslims and other groups “live peacefully” in his state, but even that statement seems divorced from the lived reality of many Florida Muslims: since November 2015, Muslims in the Sunshine State have fallen victim to at least four anti-Islam incidents, including attacks on mosques, shots fired at Muslim homes, and unsettling threats to burn down Islamic houses of worship and murder Muslim children.