As his call to create a database to track Muslims in America created a political furore, Donald Trump said the idea was not his while presidential rival Ben Carson suggested a database for all immigrants.
As Republicans and Democrats rivals alike blasted the database proposal as “abhorrent” and “shocking,” the real estate mogul said the notion that he would implement a database as a way to follow Muslims was not his.
“I didn’t suggest a database – a reporter did,” Trump tweeted Friday. “We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America.”
In response to a question from NBC News Thursday night whether there should be a “database system that tracks Muslims”, Trump said “there should be a lot of systems beyond databases” and returned to his pet idea of building a wall across the US border.
When asked whether it was something a Trump White House would implement, he said, “Oh, I would certainly implement that – absolutely.”
Trump has also said that he would close mosques and would not rule out the idea of giving Muslims identification cards noting their religion.
Retired neurosurgeon Carson, who has said that he would not support a Muslim for president, was repeatedly asked Friday whether he thought the country should track Muslims.
“I think we should have a database on everybody who comes into this country,” Carson said in Concord, New Hampshire.
“Hopefully, we already have a database on every citizen who is already here. If we don’t, we are doing a very poor job.”
At the same time, he called Trump’s call for tracking and targeting Muslims specifically as something that would be “setting a pretty dangerous precedent.”
“I find it abhorrent that Donald Trump is suggesting we register people,” rival Republican candidate Jeb Bush said Friday on CNBC.
“You’re talking about internment. You’re talking about closing mosques. You’re talking about registering people. And that’s just wrong – I don’t care about campaigns,” Bush said.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Friday tweeted that the idea of tracking people based on their religion is “shocking rhetoric” and “should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country.”
Speaking at campaign events in Tennessee on Friday, she said the rhetoric from Republican candidates on Muslim refugees is “inflammatory.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who introduced a bill that would have barred Syrian refugees from coming to the US, said he does not think that people should be tracked by their religion. Democrats blocked Cruz’s bill Thursday.
“I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s, but not a fan of government registries of American citizens,” he said in Sioux City, Iowa. “First Amendment protects religious liberty.”
Asked whether he agrees with Trump’s assertion that mosques should be closed, Senator Marco Rubio said: “It’s not about closing down mosques.”
“It’s about closing down any place – whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an Internet site – any place where radicals are being inspired.”
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Trump and Carson, have participated in the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment.
“We expected a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric in the presidential election cycle, but we didn’t realise it would get this bad,” he said. “There are comments . by leading Republican candidates that harken back to the dark days of the 1930s.”