A tea party challenger attempting to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) got an unexpected boost from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump this week, when the real estate mogul tweeted favorably about him and then announced that he was “not quite” ready to endorse Ryan.
It turns out the challenger, Paul Nehlen, has a lot in common with Trump. Nehlen has been running a campaign focused on immigration and trade, accusing Ryan of sending American jobs overseas. And as an interview with a Chicago radio station on Monday revealed, Nehlen also seems to share some of Trump’s Islamophobia, proposing that the U.S. should consider deporting all Muslims.
“I’m suggesting we have a discussion about it. That’s for sure,” he said.
Nehlen said that like Trump, he supports a surveillance program for Muslims in the U.S.
“The question is, why do we have Muslims in the country?” Nehlen asked. “Here’s what we should be doing: We should be monitoring every mosque. We should be monitoring social media.”
Later in the interview, Nehlen clarified that he meant only deporting “Sharia-compliant” Muslims, saying that he backs a religious test for Muslims to determine whether they “believe in Sharia,” an idea recently proposed by Trump supporter and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
“Islam is not a religion. It’s a political system. It has a different set of rules,” Nehlen said.
In an interview with a Wisconsin radio station on Thursday, he dismissed Nehlen’s campaign, claiming that he “has been making stuff up.”
“He’s running this sort of make-it-up-as-you-go campaign,” Ryan said.
The House speaker has repeatedly affirmed that he opposes a religious test for Muslims entering the country, and despite endorsing Trump, frequently condemns the real estate mogul’s rhetoric.
On Thursday, he called Trump’s attacks against Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a slain Muslim American war hero, “beyond the pale,” but said that he continues to support Trump as his party’s standard-bearer.
But Nehlen argued that Ryan has not done enough to support Trump, suggesting to CNN on Tuesday that Ryan “should be reporting in-kind contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
“When did the speaker attack Hillary Clinton the way he’s attacking Donald Trump right now? He is the top elected Republican in the country right now,” Nehlen said. “Shouldn’t he be focused on supporting Mr. Trump and figuring out how he can partner with him?”