While Donald Trump has largely dropped his challenge of President Obama’s religious beliefs during his own speeches and interviews, his campaign surrogates aren’t ready to let it go. Trump’s New York State campaign co-chairman insisted in an interview on Thursday that President Obama is a Muslim, pointing to his policies in the Middle East as evidence.
“In the mind of the average American, there is no doubt he is a Muslim,” Carl Paladino, a 2010 candidate for New York governor, told the New York Observer. “He is not a Christian.”
When pressed by the Observer for proof, the Tea Party Republican and real estate developer pointed to Obama’s foreign policy.
“Look at what he’s done with Iran, what he’s done with the Sunni-Shia thing over in Iraq and Iran, and with ISIS,” he said.
Paladino, who was officially brought on as honorary co-chair to the Trump campaign in April, has previously used a racial slur to refer to the president and called Obama “a man who in every respect looks like he despises America.” He narrowly won re-election to the Buffalo School Board in May, edging 18-year-old high school senior Austin Harig by a hundred votes.
Throughout the campaign, Trump has attempted to link Obama to Islamic terrorists, though he has stopped short of directly questioning his religious beliefs. But in the run-up to the 2012 election, Trump displayed no such reservations, leading the charge of conspiracy theorists who openly questioned Obama’s religion and place of birth, spurring the president to publicly release his birth certificate. That hasn’t stopped prominent conservatives from continuing to question Obama’s credentials. Former Trump campaign manager and current CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski resurrected the issue on the network earlier this week, questioning why Obama has not released his college transcripts. On Thursday, Trump ally and New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin suggested that Obama “is playing for some other team” on foreign policy. And Scott Baio, the closest thing the Trump campaign has to a celebrity endorser, suggested Obama was a Muslim on Fox Business, earning him an invitation to speak during primetime at the Republican National Convention.