A U.K.-based petition calling on the British government to bar GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump from the country has gained enough traction to get an official response.
The petition, started late in 2015, urges that Trump be banned for "hate speech." “If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful,” the petition reads in part. It has gained more than 500,000 supporters (the site hosting it briefly crashed due to an influx of signees), which prompted a response from the U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May.
"The Home Secretary may exclude a non-European Economic Area national from the U.K. if she considers their presence in the U.K. to be non-conducive to the public good," a statement from May's office read. "The Home Secretary has said that coming to the U.K. is a privilege and not a right and she will continue to use the powers available to prevent from entering the U.K. those who seek to harm our society and who do not share our basic values."
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The statement goes on to point out that Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned Trump's suggestion that Muslims be prevented from entering the U.S. temporarily and that May considers the GOP candidate's statements "divisive, unhelpful and wrong." Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson has said Donald Trump is “clearly out of his mind.”
"The Government recognises the strength of feeling against the remarks and will continue to speak out against comments which have the potential to divide our communities, regardless of who makes them," May's statement says, but it stops short of saying the U.K. will actually enforce a ban on Trump entering their borders.
Trump attacked the petition when it first made national headlines in December. “The United Kingdom is trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem. Everybody is wise to what is happening, very sad! Be honest,” he tweeted at time. He went on to promote the writings of a controversial U.K. conservative and former "Apprentice" cast-member Katie Hopkins. Hopkins has compared migrants to ”cockroaches” and “feral humans” and was reportedly investigated for “inciting racial hatred” in early 2015.
Meanwhile, some have begun to link Trump's rhetoric on Muslims to terrorism recruitment. SITE Monitoring reported on Saturday that footage of the real estate mogul was used in a video from the Al Shabaab terror group. When confronted about the video during an interview with CBS News' John Dickerson, Trump said: "What am I going to do? I have to say what I have to say.”