Donald Trump is taking heat from both sides of the aisle after he declined Thursday to correct a questioner at a town hall event who incorrectly stated President Obama is Muslim, and "not even an American."
Trump was kicking off a town hall event in Rochester, N.H. -- his first since Wednesday evening's second Republican primary debate.
"We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims," said the first man Trump called on to ask a question. "We know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American."
Trump, who was a driver of the "birther" movement that claimed Obama wasn't born in the U.S, first responded with feigned exasperation -- "We need the question," he said, to laughs -- but let the man continue.
"We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question," the questioner continued. "When can we get rid of it?"
Trump did not dispute the man's assertions and answered: "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. And you know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We're going to be looking at that and plenty of other things."
After the exchange attracted widespread attention -- and criticism -- Trump released a statement saying the media want to make the issue about Obama. "The bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians in this country. Christians need support in this country. Their religious liberty is at stake," he said in a statement Friday.
Democrats seized on the exchange, and Hillary Clinton tweeted that "Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate, also said on NBC's "Today" show that he would have corrected anyone saying something like that at his town hall meetings.
The incident evoked a moment during the 2008 campaign when Republican nominee John McCain took the microphone away from a woman who said she didn't trust Obama because he was an "Arab."
Trump's questions about the president's country of birth pushed Obama to release a copy of his birth certificate in 2011. But the billionaire businessman has distanced himself from the issue during his current run.
Trump's town hall, in a sweaty auditorium in Rochester, was also interrupted several times by a protester, whose interruptions were met by hostility from the friendly crowd.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.