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Woman Asks Trump About Replacing TSA's 'Heebeejabis' With Veterans

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke at a campaign event Thursday in Manchester, N.H.
Robert F. Bukaty
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke at a campaign event Thursday in Manchester, N.H.

Donald Trump had an awkward exchange Thursday at a New Hampshire event when a woman asked him why the U.S. isn't putting veterans on the border or at TSA instead of these "heebeejabis they wear at TSA." It was an apparent reference to Muslim employees who wear hijabs, or head coverings.

"Why aren't we putting our retiree — military retirees on that border, or in TSA? Get rid of all these 'heebeejabis' they wear at TSA. I've seen them myself," the woman asked. "We need the veterans back in there to take it — they've fought for this country and defended it; they'll still do it. Thank you."

"Well, I understand," Trump said as she asked the question. When she finished, Trump continued, "You know, and we are looking at that. And we are looking at that. We're looking at a lot of things."

He then quickly pivoted to talking about border security, his endorsement by Border Patrol agents, and a new poll. "I have to tell you, as long as you bring it up though in terms of the border. Some great people, and Al you know this, we were endorsed — I was endorsed by 16,500 Border Patrol agents."

Replacing TSA employees who wear hijabs for veterans would not, of course, eliminate the presence of employees in hijabs at the airport checkpoints. The military now allows head coverings if they are an expression of religious beliefs. And veterans who served before hijabs were allowed have flexibility in how they dress once retired from service.

Last September, Trump was asked this by a questioner who expressed concern over Muslims: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American. We have training camps growing when they want to kill us. My question: When can we get rid of them?" the man asked.

He gave a similar response: "We are going to be looking at a lot of different things. And a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We are going to be looking at that and plenty of other things," Trump said then.

Back in 2008, then-candidate John McCain was put in a similarly awkward position after a woman at an October event stood up and told him she had read that President Obama is Arab.

"I gotta ask you a question. I can't trust Obama. I have read about him, and he's not, he's not, he's an Arab."

McCain vigorously shook his head and said, "No ma'am, no ma'am, he's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about. He's not. Thank you." The audience applauded.

But McCain had stumbled earlier on the trail when he was asked, "How do we beat the b****?" referring to Hillary Clinton.

"Can I get the translation?" McCain said, laughing. "But that's an excellent question."

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Amita Kelly is a Washington editor, where she works across beats and platforms to edit election, politics and policy news and features stories.