The Slatest

Gov. Scott Walker: “I Don’t Know” if Obama Is Christian

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum on Jan. 30, 2015 in Washington, D.C.  

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

It’s not just about loving the country—it seems there are a lot of things Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t know about the man who has been in the White House for more than six years. In an interview with the Washington Post, Walker said he simply is not aware about whether Obama is a Christian. “I don’t know,” Walker said when he was asked the question. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said. “I’ve never asked him that.”

Walker said the whole premise was ridiculous because “you’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?” Well, you know, except for the fact that the White House and the president himself have repeatedly stated that Obama is a practicing Christian, because certain sectors are constantly asking questions about his religion. As MSNBC points out: “Many have argued that attempts to express ambiguity or ambivalence about the president’s religious background is part of a thinly veiled racial attack on Obama’s character.”

Walker, however, thinks the question itself was ridiculous and is “a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press.” Walker’s spokesman insisted on this point later, saying that “of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian” but is opposed to “these kinds of gotcha questions.”

Some disagree:

Walker’s remarks are seen as even more controversial considering they came after a week in which the governor has repeatedly refused to distance himself from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s statement questioning whether Obama loves his country. “I don’t know, I honestly don’t know, one way or the other,” Walker told the Post when asked about the president’s love of country. “I’ve said that 100 times, too.”

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote on Friday that Walker’s failure to distance himself from Giuliani’s words should disqualify him as a serious presidential contender. Milbank explains what he sees as particularly “alarming” about the whole controversy:

There will always be people on the fringe who say outrageous things (and Giuliani, once a respected public servant, has sadly joined the nutters as he questioned the president’s patriotism even while claiming he was doing no such thing). But to have a civilized debate, it’s necessary for public officials to disown such beyond-the-pale rhetoric. And Walker failed that fundamental test of leadership.

Just in case there’s any doubt, Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley put together a video illustrating how “there is simply no question that, in his own telling, Barack Obama believes that the United States is an exceptional, great, splendiferous nation—the world’s most powerful force for good.”