Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump added a few caveats Tuesday to his call to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the country, but condemnation still rained down upon him form his party’s top elected officials and from world leaders, including America’s closest allies, England and France.
The proposal to close the borders to Muslim immigrants and visitors was never intended to apply to foreign dignitaries or American Muslims who travel abroad and wish to return, said the billionaire businessman and reality TV star.
He just wanted to stop a new wave of Muslims from moving in “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” with radical Islamic terrorists, he said repeatedly in a series of appearances on TV news shows.
“What I’m doing is no different than FDR,” Mr. Trump said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” referring to President Franklin Roosevelt’s policies during World War II that put Japanese, German and Italian people in detention camps.
And yet furious objections that Mr. Trump’s plan was unconstitutional, un-American and downright bigoted grew exponentially and spread around the globe the day after he proposed it.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said through a spokeswoman that Mr. Trump’s idea was “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, whose country continues to recover from the Islamic State attack on Paris last month that killed 130 people, took to Twitter to admonish Mr. Trump.
“Mr. Trump, like others, strokes hatred and confusion: our only enemy is radical Islam,” he wrote.
Muslim nations found the ban particularly distasteful.
Egypt’s official religious organization, Dar al-Ifta, denounced Mr. Trump for spewing “hate rhetoric.”
“Such hostile attitudes towards Islam and Muslims will increase tensions within the American society of which Muslims represent around 8 million peaceful and loyal American citizens,” the organization said in a statement.
On the home front, Republican Party leaders, many of whom believe Mr. Trump would be a disaster as the party’s nominee and doom any chance to win the White House and other races, couldn’t contain their disapproval.
“This is not conservatism,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the country’s highest-ranking elected Republican official. “What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for. And, more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”
Mr. Ryan, who was the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, usually does not comment on campaign politics, but he made an exception to speak out against Mr. Trump.
“Not only are there many Muslims serving in our armed forces dying for this country, there are Muslims serving right here in the House working every day to uphold and to defend the Constitution,” he said. “Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islamic terror are Muslims — the vast, vast, vast majority of whom are peaceful, who believe in pluralism, freedom, democracy, individual rights.”
Mr. Trump let the GOP establishment know that he will not be cowed.
“A new poll indicates that 68% of my supporters would vote for me if I departed the GOP & ran as an independent,” tweeted Mr. Trump, which amounted to a threat that he will split the party if he is treated unfairly.
The same USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll showed Mr. Trump dominating the GOP race with 27 percent support nationally, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 17 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 16 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10 percent.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was at 4 percent, with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent apiece.
The rivals have unleashed fierce attacks on Mr. Trump, believing that banning Muslims is so outrageous that it will finally derail his runaway campaign. However, the closest competitor, Mr. Cruz, avoided harsh criticism, likely angling to someday win over Mr. Trump’s supporters.
Mr. Cruz said that he “disagreed” with the plan.
“I like Donald Trump,” Mr. Cruz told reporters at the Capitol. “A lot of our friends here have encouraged me to criticize and attack Donald Trump. I am not interested in doing that.
“But I believe we need a plan that is focused on the direct threat, and the threat we are facing is radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.
Mr. Trump found some unexpected allies with his Muslim ban.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, a longtime and staunch detractor of Mr. Trump, tweeted: “Has Trump gone too far? Regardless, public is obsessed on radical Muslim dangers, Complete refugee pause to fix vetting makes sense.”
The Muslim ban also picked up a partial endorsement from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group that advocates decreasing the amount of legal immigration to the United States.
“Donald Trump’s assertion that we categorically bar admission to people based solely on their religious identities is one that runs counter to American values, but is rooted in a grim reality that Americans can no longer trust the government’s vetting process and its ability to screen out those susceptible to beliefs and actions inconsistent with life in a modern, Western-style democracy,” FAIR President Dan Stein said in a statement.
He stressed that the organization did not support immigration restriction based solely on religious affiliation, but he defended the country’s right “to exclude people when the manifestation of their religious, political, or ideological beliefs threaten public safety or is fundamentally at odds with the values and freedoms set forth in our Constitution.”
“Moreover, the President retains a statutory authority to suspend any class of aliens he/she deems a threat to the vital security interest of the nation,” said Mr. Stein.