Donald Trump backed off discussion of a mandatory database to track Muslims on Friday after a torrent of criticism from both Republicans and Democratic opponents.
“I didn’t suggest a database — a reporter did,” Trump tweeted. “We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America.”
Trump, who has talked about warrantless searches and possibly closing mosques in the wake of the Paris attacks, told NBC News on Thursday when asked about a database: “I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.”
That comment drew immediate fire from Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who tweeted Friday: “This is shocking rhetoric. It should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country. -H.”
Republican opponent Jeb Bush told CNBC: “There are no Christian terrorists wandering around the world trying to take out peace-loving Muslims — this is a serious problem … (But) it does not mean we should be disrespectful of Muslims in our country or anything like that. In fact, I find it abhorrent that Donald Trump is suggesting that we register people.”
Ted Cruz also jumped into the fray, tell reporters in Iowa: “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s but I’m not a fan of government registries of American citizens. The First Amendment protects religious liberty, I’ve spent the past several decades defending religious liberty.”
Bernie Sanders, who is opposing Clinton in the Democratic primaries, called Trump’s statements “outrageous and bigoted” and said the New York businessman should be ashamed of himself.
“We will not destroy ISIS (the Islamic State) by undermining the Constitution and our religious freedoms,” Sanders said.
The exchanges reflect the escalating American political rhetoric a week after the attacks in Paris.
In an interview with Yahoo News earlier this week, Trump said: “We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely.”
Reports The Associated Press:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement Thursday condemning Trump for what the group described as “Islamophobic and unconstitutional” comments targeting American Muslims and Syrian refugees.
They also criticized Trump rival Ben Carson, who on Thursday compared blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. to handling a rabid dog.
“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson told reporters at a campaign stops in Alabama. “It doesn’t mean you hate all dogs, but you’re putting your intellect into motion”