By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Friday angrily denounced suggestions from some Republican leaders that Muslims in America be “tested” after an attack in Nice, France, that killed at least 84 people, calling the idea “repugnant.”
Making his first public comments since a Tunisian man drove a truck through a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks, Obama told a gathering of ambassadors at the White House that the United States stands with France and vows to fight terrorism.
Obama did not explicitly link the attack to Islamic State militants who have been connected to other recent attacks around the globe, saying that the details were not yet clear. He vowed to continue to fight the group.
“These terrorists are targeting and killing innocent people of all backgrounds and all faiths, including Muslims. I know I speak for all of us when I say these individuals and these networks are an affront to all of our humanity,” he said.
Without naming names, Obama responded to a suggestion from Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker, who on Thursday said a religious test was needed for Muslims in America, deporting them if they believe in Sharia law.
Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election, has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
“In the wake of last night’s attacks, we’ve heard more suggestions that all Muslims in America be targeted, tested for their beliefs, some deported or jailed,” Obama said.
“The very suggestion is repugnant and an affront to everything we stand for as Americans,” Obama said.
Obama, who spoke earlier on Friday with French President Francois Hollande, said he met with French Ambassador Gerard Araud to offer sympathy and help.
Obama also spoke about a father and son from Texas who were killed in the attack. “Their family, like so many others, are devastated,” Obama said.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sandra Maler)