Donald Trump's willingness to consider a database that would record the names of Muslim Americans has been condemned by 2016 contenders on both the right and the left, and now the 2016 GOP front-runner is saying the idea didn't originate with him.
Trump's latest firestorm started on Thursday when he told NBC News reporter Vaughn Hilliard he "would certainly implement" a program to track Muslims in America. "There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases," he added. "We should have a lot of systems."
Amid a growing backlash, Trump tweeted Friday: "I didn't suggest a database-a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America." Still, despite the real estate mogul's denials, the chorus of critics of his remarks continues to grow.
Earlier on Friday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush lit into Trump. "You talk about internment, you talk about closing mosques, you talk about registering people — that's just wrong," he told CNBC. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on Twitter called the comment "shocking rhetoric" which "should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country." Even Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been a sidekick of sorts to Trump on the campaign trail despite challenging him for the GOP nomination, has distanced himself from Trump's remarks.
"Listen, I’m a big fan of Donald Trump's but I’m not a fan of government registries of American citizens," Cruz told reporters on Friday. "The First Amendment protects religious liberty and I’ve spent the past several decades defending the religious liberties of every American."
Meanwhile, Trump avoided revisiting the database concept while campaigning in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on Friday. He did, however, claim that "if you're a Christian ... it's almost impossible to get into this country." Trump has advocated a massive border wall along America's southwest border, which he claims will be financed by Mexico. He has also called for the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants.
In the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, which claimed the lives of 130 people, Trump has shifted his rhetoric to railing against President Obama's support for allowing up to 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S next year. Trump has inflated that number to 250,000 on the campaign trail, floated the idea of closing mosques, called the president a threat to America, and argued that refugees could be a "Trojan Horse" for ISIS fighters.
"Refugees are pouring into our great country from Syria. We don't even know who they are. They could be ISIS, they could be anybody. What's our president doing? Is he insane?" Trump asked rhetorically on Instagram this week. According to The Guardian, the U.S. has accepted 2,174 Syrian refugees since 2012, which translates to roughly 0.0007% of the population.
The most recent GOP primary polls show Trump where he has been since he launched his campaign this summer — at the top. After Dr. Ben Carson appeared to be tying and in some cases even surpassing Trump, the former reality TV star appears to have recaptured and solidified his lead over more traditional politicians.