Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE defiantly made his case for barring all Muslims from entering the country before a rowdy crowd in South Carolina on Monday night, dismissing his critics as putting political correctness before national security.
Speaking to supporters at a rally in Mount Pleasant, Trump doubled-down on his call for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States – a proposal his campaign said extends from tourists to immigrants to refugees, and even to those American Muslims that are currently traveling abroad.
“We’re out of control and we have no idea who is coming into the country,” Trump said. “We have no idea whether they love us or hate us or want to bomb us.”
“This is pretty heavy stuff but we have to do it,” Trump continued. “We have no choice. We have no choice.”
To justify that drastic measure, Trump cited a poll conducted by the Center for Security Policy, a think-tank that has been critical of the role of Muslims in America.
The group’s survey claimed that a quarter of Muslims living in America agreed that violence against Americans in the U.S. is “justified as part of the global jihad.” More than half of those surveyed said Muslims in America “should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah Law,” the group said.
Trump said the survey was conducted by “a very highly respected group of people who I know.” But the Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday sent out a release disputing the findings, calling the study “debunked” and claiming it was spearheaded by a “conspiracy theorist.”
Trump made several other controversial remarks at his Monday rally.
He said that if the victims of terror attacks in France and California had been armed they may not have died, and then he acted out the scene in Paris as if he was a terrorist holding a gun.
“If they had guns you probably wouldn’t have had that carnage. Paris has probably the toughest gun laws anywhere in the world,” Trump said, making a gun out of his hand. “It was like target practice. Come here – boom. Come here – boom.”
Trump argued that those who lived near the shooters who killed 14 in a massacre in San Bernardino last week were suspicious of the couple, but didn’t say anything to law enforcement officials for fear they’d be accused of racial profiling.
Law enforcement officials say that the female shooter pledged fealty to ISIS on her Facebook page shortly before the shooting, and Trump alleged Monday that the male shooter had been radicalized by his wife because he “probably couldn’t get a woman” other than her.
“That was probably the first woman he’s ever had,” Trump said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Trump reiterated his call to spy on and close mosques believed to be disseminating extreme messages, and said “we have to talk about maybe closing the Internet up” so terrorists stop using it as a recruitment tool.
He also blasted the media as “scum”, saying he wasn’t getting fair coverage. Trump singled out a woman reporter from NBC News, Katy Tur, calling her “Little Katy” and saying she had been dishonest in reporting that he once left a rally early.
“Seventy to 75 percent [of the media] is absolutely dishonest,” Trump said. “Absolute scum. Remember that. Scum. Scum. Totally dishonest people.”
As has become customary at recent Trump rallies, the event was interrupted on several occasions by protesters who were shouted down and led away by security.
Trump wandered away from the lectern in these instances, at first instructing security to treat the protesters gently, but later becoming frustrated by the interruptions.
"So far security is not doing a great job," Trump said. "Security, strengthen up."
Trump’s proposal on Monday to bar Muslims from entering the country sparked a firestorm of controversy and was met with rebuke from several Republican presidential contenders.
“This is just more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath and another reason why he is entirely unsuited to lead the United States,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said in a statement.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Trump’s proposal “is the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called Trump “unhinged,” and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE called his remarks “offensive and outlandish.”
The Democrats running for president also pounced on the remarks.
“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin,” Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE 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.”
Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE called Trump’s proposal “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive,” while Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley called Trump a “fascist demagogue.”
Meanwhile, The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nonprofit Muslim advocacy group, announced it would hold a press conference coinciding with Trump’s South Carolina rally to condemn his remarks.
The controversy comes a day after President Obama addressed the nation in a rare Oval Office speech designed to alleviate the nation’s fears over the threat of terror from Islamic extremist groups in the wake of attacks in France and California.
In his address, Obama vowed to “destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us;” urged the Muslim community to “confront without excuse” extremist elements within the faith, advocated for stricter gun safety measures; and warned against discriminating against Muslims.
Trump said Monday: “I don’t even know if [Obama] knows what the hell is going on, I really don’t.”