After sparking perhaps the biggest controversy in a presidential campaign filled with them, a defiant Donald Trump is defending his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
“Something has to be done,” Trump said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” one of several phone interviews the Republican frontrunner participated in Tuesday morning. “What I’m doing is I’m calling very simply for a shutdown of Muslims entering the United States — and here’s a key — until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Trump’s plan, which was released Tuesday, calls for a “total and complete shutdown" of all Muslims entering the country in response to the recent terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris.
His campaign initially indicated the ban would include Muslim-Americans traveling overseas. But Trump said Tuesday there would be exceptions.
“If a person is a Muslim, goes overseas and comes back, they can come back,” Trump said. “They’re a citizen. That’s different.“
Trump at a rally in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Monday. (Photo: Mic Smith/AP)
Trump compared the ban to the internment of Japanese-Americans under President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, a move he recently said he isn’t sure he would have supported or opposed.
“This is a president [Roosevelt] highly respected by all; he did the same thing,” Trump said.
"This is outrageous from someone who wants to assume the highest office,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said at a news conference Monday. "Donald Trump sounds more like the leader of a lynch mob than a great nation like ours.”
“I didn’t know Donald Trump was fluent in Nazi,” Bassem Youssef, a comedian and former talk show host, wrote on Twitter.
I didn’t know that Donald Trump was fluent in Nazi— Dr Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef)December 8, 2015
Other critics, like the Philadelphia Daily News, compared Trump’s plan to Adolf Hitler’s imprisonment of Jews during the Holocaust.
“You’re being increasingly compared to Hitler,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos told Trump. “Does that give you any pause at all?”
“No,” Trump said. “Because what I’m doing is no different than what FDR [did].”
“We’re at war,“ Trump said on CNN’s “New Day.” “Get it through your head.”
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump got into a heated exchange with Joe Scarborough, who threatened to go to a commercial as Trump refused to directly answer whether the ban would prevent Muslims around the world from helping the U.S. fight the war on terror.
“You’ve got to let us ask questions; you can’t just talk,” Scarborough scolded the brash billionaire. “Donald, Donald, Donald, you’re not going to keep talking. We will go to break if you keep talking.“
“Go to break then, Joe!” Trump replied.
The proposed ban was quickly condemned by nearly all of Trump’s rivals in the presidential race, religious leaders and politicians on both sides of the political aisle.
“This is reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive,” Hillary Clinton tweeted. “You don’t get it. This makes us less safe.”
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton)December 7, 2015
“This is just more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath,“ Ohio Gov. John Kasich said in a statement, “and another reason why he is entirely unsuited to lead the United States.”
“Making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter.
“Donald Trump is unhinged,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted.
Donald Trump is unhinged. His "policy” proposals are not serious.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush)December 7, 2015
“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine,” Matt Moore, the chairman of the South Carolina GOP, wrote on Twitter. “American exceptionalism means always defending our inalienable rights, not attacking them when it’s politically convenient.”
“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin,“ Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement. “Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.”
“What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday. “And more importantly it’s not what this country stands for.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said that while he does not think Trump’s proposal “is the right solution” in the fight against terrorism, he refused to condemn his GOP rival for trying.
“In the media, there has been no shortage of criticism for Donald Trump, and I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics,” Cruz said. “And listen, I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said Trump’s presidential campaign ought to be relegated to the “dustbin of history.”
“What Donald Trump said yesterday disqualifies him from becoming president,” Earnest told reporters. “And any Republican who is too fearful of the Republican base to admit it has no business serving as president either.”
“Donald Trump is now an actual threat to national security,” the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted. “He’s providing jihadists ammunition for their campaign to demonize the U.S.”
Donald Trump is now an actual threat to national security. He’s providing jihadists ammunition for their campaign to demonize the US.— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg)December 7, 2015
“I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Monday. “I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from.”
The mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., Rick Kriseman, mockingly tweeted that he would ban Trump from his city “until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.”
I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman)December 8, 2015
Even “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling blasted Trump’s plan.
How horrible. Voldemort was nowhere near as bad. https://t.co/hFO0XmOpPH— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling)December 8, 2015
Trump based his proposal, in part, on a recent poll from the Center for Security Policy, a controversial Washington, D.C.-based national security think tank, which found that 25 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that violence against Americans in the U.S. is justified.
But even “without looking at the various polling data,“ Trump said in a statement accompanying his plan, “it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for president, we are going to make America great again.”
“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CNN. “You know you how you make America great again? You tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”
While Republicans are condemning Trump, most stopped short of saying they wouldn’t vote for him if he became the party’s nominee.
But a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Tuesday found 68 percent of Trump’s supporters would vote for him if he ran as an independent, versus just 18 percent who say they would not.
A new poll indicates that 68% of my supporters would vote for me if I departed the GOP & ran as an independent. https://t.co/ztP5d2ctZl— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)December 8, 2015
The survey, however, was conducted before the announcement of Trump’s plan — and the ensuing political firestorm it’s caused.