WASHINGTON (AP) — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Friday that the media "grossly exaggerated" comments he made after the truck attack in France arguing for the expulsion from the U.S. of any Muslim who believes in Sharia law.
The former Georgia congressman said on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" on Thursday night that the U.S. "should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization."
President Barack Obama said Friday that calls to expel Muslims who believe in Sharia law are "repugnant."
He said the suggestion is an "affront to everything we stand for as Americans."
In a Facebook chat Friday, Gingrich said the media "went into a hysteria overnight in trying to grossly exaggerate what I was saying."
Gingrich said his comments were not "about targeting a particular religion," but "this is about looking for certain characteristics that we have learned painfully time after time involve killing people."
Gingrich added that "if you are a practicing Muslim and you believe deeply in your faith, but you're also loyal to the United States and you believe in the Constitution, you should have your rights totally completely protected within the Constitution."
Gingrich had been considered as a possible running mate by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but Trump announced Friday that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Gingrich told The Associated Press he was comfortable with the decision, calling Pence a "good choice."
The Council on Islamic Relations condemned the attack in France, as well as Gingrich's suggestion that Muslims in the United States should be tested.