Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s answers in an interview with The Washington Post to the question of whether President Obama is a Christian are reminiscent of a fumble committed by then-Sen. Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primaries, and the backlash in the media is likely to be at least as severe.
The Post’s Robert Costa and Dan Balz asked Walker whether he believed Obama is a Christian. The reporters asked Walker the seemingly random question because of a recent controversy surrounding comments former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani made this week questioning Obama’s patriotism.
Walker was in the room when Giuliani made the remarks, and many, including The Post, believe that the governor must now weigh in.
“I don’t know,” Walker answered when asked whether Obama is a follower of Christ. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that.”
The backlash was immediate and drove chatter on social media.
But this is not uncharted territory.
In March 2008, as she was vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton was asked by “60 Minutes” Steve Kroft whether she believed Obama was a Muslim. Clinton initially answered in the negative, but seemed to pull back at the end.
“You don’t believe that Senator Obama’s a Muslim?” Kroft asked.
“Of course not. I mean, that’s, you know, there is no basis for that. You know, I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn’t any reason to doubt that,” she answered.
“You said you’d take Senator Obama at his word that he’s not a Muslim. You don’t believe that he’s a Muslim?” Kroft said.
“No. No, there is nothing to base that on,” Clinton said, adding, “As far as I know.
The “as far as I know” qualification got Clinton in hot water.
Ben Smith, then a reporter at Politico and now editor-in-chief at Buzzfeed, called the exchange a “weird moment of TV.”
“Clinton denies she thinks Obama’s a Muslim, but her denial seems something other than ironclad, and the interviewer goes back at her on the question,” he wrote.
“There are real danger zones for even hinting this stuff, even leaving yourself open to uncharitable interpretations, more with Obama than with any other politician I can think of.”
Bob Herbert, a columnist at The New York Times called Clinton’s equivocating response “one of the sleaziest moments of the campaign to date.”
The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza called Clinton’s statement a “disingenuous remark” that was “especially galling.”
Time Magazine’s Joe Klein wrote “Hillary Clinton disgraced herself by playing into these innuendos by telling 60 Minutes that Obama isn’t Islamic ‘as far as I know.” (RELATED: WaPo To Walker: Do You Think Obama Is A Christian?)
Others, such as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell criticized Clinton as well.
2016 promises to be the same as it ever was.