WASHINGTON, Dec 9 – The White House on Tuesday said Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s call for the United States to ban Muslims from entering the country disqualified him from becoming president and called on Republicans to reject him immediately.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Trump’s campaign had a “dustbin of history” quality to it and said his comments were offensive and toxic.
Earnest said other Republican presidential candidates, who have pledged to support the person who eventually wins their party’s nomination, should disavow Trump “right now.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday remarks like those made by Trump calling for Muslims to be barred from entering the United States are “not constructive” in the struggle against Daesh militants.
“As I travel around the world, it is clear to me that both our friends and our adversaries watch and listen to the discourse in the United States, and comments such as those that we just heard are not constructive, and that is putting it diplomatically,” Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of a global climate summit in Paris.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States was not only offensive but would undermine U.S. security by thwarting efforts to connect with the Muslim community.
“It is irresponsible to do this and contrary to our national security efforts,” Johnson, who earlier had declined to comment on the Republican presidential candidate’s proposal, told MSNBC in an interview.
Trump Defends Ban
But the Republican presidential front-runner defended his call to ban Muslims, calling it a temporary measure in a time of war.
Trump likened his proposal to those implemented by former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt against people of Japanese, Germans and Italian descent during World War Two.
“What I’m doing is no different than FDR,” Trump said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program in one of a round of heated television interviews where he defended his plan.
“We have no choice but to do this,” the candidate seeking the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race told ABC. “We have people that want to blow up our buildings, our cities. We have figure out what’s going on.”
“Gift for Hillary”
Trump’s was the most dramatic response by a presidential candidate following the San Bernardino, California, rampage, even as other Republicans have called for a suspension of U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to allow some refugees from Syria.
Critics said Trump’s plan would likely be unconstitutional for singling out people based on their religion. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson dismissed those concerns, telling MSNBC the Constitution does not apply to non-U.S. citizens. “In this country you have the freedom of religion until your religion persecutes other religions,” she said.
Republicans warned that if Trump is the party’s nominee, his stance could hurt in a general election against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton’s Christmas gift wrapped up under a tree,” Republican candidate Carly Fiorina said on Twitter.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, told reporters the plan was “not conservatism.” But he said he would support the party’s presidential nominee.
Democrats, meanwhile, blamed Republicans for Trump’s extreme language and warned it could help him with primary voters.
“Donald Trump is standing on the platform of hate, and, I’m sorry to say, hate that the Republican Party has built for him,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.
Clinton tweeted, “Tell Donald Trump: Hate is not an American value.”
Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton, sent a fundraising email Monday night declaring her own Muslim faith. “Unfortunately, Trump is leaning into the kind of fear of progress that very well could help him win the nomination,” Abedin wrote.
Polls have shown a stark divide between Republicans and Democrats in how they view Muslims.
Refugees at Risk
Campaign rhetoric in the United States is harming a vital U.S. resettlement program for Syrian and other refugees fleeing war and persecution, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said: “We are concerned that the rhetoric that is being used in the election campaign is putting an incredibly important resettlement program at risk that is meant for the most vulnerable people – the victims of wars that the world is unable to stop,” Fleming told a news briefing in Geneva.
Trump’s comments drew criticism at home and abroad.
“It’s so absurd a statement that I don’t even wish to react to it,” said Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights lawyers.
“This is the worst kind of bigotry mixed with ignorance. I would imagine that someone who is hoping to become president of the U.S. doesn’t want to compete with an ignorant criminal-minded mullah of Pakistan who denounces people of other religions … Although we are not as advanced as the U.S., we have never elected such people to power in Pakistan.”
“As the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia affirms that Islam teaches peace and tolerance,” said the foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir. “Acts of terror do not have any relation with any religion or country or race.”
Trump’s proposal also drew criticism in France, which had its worst attacks since World War Two on Nov. 13 when shootings and suicide bombings in Paris killed 130 people.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in a post on Twitter, said: “Mr Trump, like others, is feeding hatred and misinformation. Our only enemy is radical Islam.”
A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron called Trump’s comments “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”