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Obama Blasts Donald Trump's Comments About Orlando Massacre

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Two days after the massacre in Orlando, survivors of the attack and the doctors who are treating them are telling their stories. We're going to hear from some of them in just a few minutes. We will start with the political response to the shooting.

Today the president condemned Donald Trump's comments on Orlando and his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Donald Trump took to Twitter within hours of Sunday's shooting rampage, asking if President Obama would finally use the words radical Islamic terrorism. The president has studiously avoided that phrase, saying it merely reinforces the terrorist narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam.

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BARACK OBAMA: There's no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It's a political talking point. It's not a strategy.

HORSLEY: This semantic argument didn't start with Donald Trump. Plenty of other Republicans have criticized the president's word choice, and Obama typically shrugs it off as so much partisan rhetoric.

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OBAMA: And that kind of yapping has not prevented folks across government from doing their jobs.

HORSLEY: But Obama says what's new and potentially dangerous is where such anti-Muslim rhetoric can lead. Not only has Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslim visitors to the U.S. Yesterday he suggested Muslims already here are complicit in attacks like those in Orlando and San Bernardino.

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DONALD TRUMP: The Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what's going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn't turn him in.

HORSLEY: Where does this stop, Obama asked today. Should all Muslims in the country be subject to special surveillance? He challenged Trump's fellow Republicans to say whether they agree with the GOP standard-bearer. Some, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, have already distanced themselves.

Obama notes the U.S. was founded on the values of religious freedom and pluralism, and he accused Trump of betraying the very qualities that make this country great.

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OBAMA: If we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists' work for them.

HORSLEY: Obama insists he won't let that happen. The president spoke in glowing terms about the graduation ceremony he attended this month at the U.S. Air Force Academy where male cadets were applauding female classmates. Straight airmen were cheering on gay servicemen, and Air Force graduates of every religion were rooting for proud, patriotic Muslims in uniform.

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OBAMA: One team, one nation - those are the values that ISIL's trying to destroy, and we shouldn't help them do it.

HORSLEY: Obama spoke after meeting with his national security team and said the self-proclaimed Islamic State is on defense in Iraq and Syria while the U.S. and its allies are on offense. When it comes to domestic politics, Obama is clearly trying to play offense as well. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.