Donald Trump appeared to backtrack Saturday on his ban on all foreign Muslims entering the United States that he first called for in December.
The presumptive Republican nominee would now ban Muslims only from “terror” countries, he told the Daily Mail on the 18th hole of his golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, while he urged several golfers to play through the hole.
"I don't want people coming in from the terror countries. You have terror countries! I don't want them, unless they're very, very strongly vetted," he said, according to NBC News.
When asked in the press gaggle which countries make up “terror countries, Mr. Trump replied, “They’re pretty well decided. All you have to do is look.”
Trump’s remarks are a departure from the "total and complete” ban of Muslims he demanded in December, five days after the San Bernardino attack. Even so, as Trump has clarified his proposal numerous times throughout his campaign, its variations correspond to different attitudes among Americans in the wake of terrorist attacks domestically and abroad.
Trump’s comments Saturday started when one reporter asked him if he would allow a Scottish Muslim to enter the United States.
“It wouldn’t bother me,” replied Trump.
After reporters repeatedly sought clarification, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks and national finance chair Steven Mnuchin said Trump’s position hasn’t changed since a policy speech he gave in Manchester, New Hampshire, two weeks ago, the day after the Orlando attack. Trump did not mention Muslims in the speech. Instead, he called for a temporary ban on "certain people coming from certain horrible – where you have tremendous terrorism in the world, you know what those places are," although the Post’s Jenna Johnson wrote that “at the time, it appeared that Trump was expanding his ban to include more people, not limiting its scope.”
Mr. Mnuchin said Saturday the ban isn’t about religious discrimination.
"It is about terrorism,” he said. “It is about Muslims from countries that support terrorism.”
This attitude is softer than Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” because “our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life" he said five days after the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif.
Although Trump’s remarks were flatly criticized by Republican and Democratic politicians alike, their constituents’ reactions weren’t as definite. A CBS poll two days afterward found that while 58 percent rejected a ban of all foreign Muslims, 34 percent of Americans were open to it.
Following the Brussels bombings in March, the ban resonated with more Americans, a Morning Consult poll found. According to the poll conducted between two to four days after the attacks, 50 percent of Americans said they supported a temporary ban on all Muslims. Those in support or opposition to such a ban didn’t split along party lines: 34 percent of Democrats were in favor of a ban, as were 49 percent of Independents and 71 percent of Republicans.
In the two weeks following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fl., Trump has reportedly distanced himself from his proposal for an outright ban. His speech in Manchester, N.H., in which he mentioned a ban of certain immigrants, but didn’t mention Muslims, piqued the media’s attention. CNN reported Trump’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests that asked for clarification on whether the policy was a replacement for a ban on all foreign Muslims. He and his staff clarified his position Saturday, saying Muslims from “terror” countries would be “very strongly” vetted.
Regardless of how a Trump presidency would end up treating Muslim immigrants, the candidate’s rhetoric has set polarizing opinions among Americans.
After Trump first said no foreign Muslims should enter the US, the Associated Press interviewed dozens of the candidate’s supporters. Those interviewed largely embraced their Trump's plan, which they interpreted to mean taking a harder look at Muslims entering this country.
"Think about it. You don't know what you've got here. You've got no clue," one Trump supported, Stacy Hooker, told the Associated Press.
But American comedian Aziz Anzari, whose family is Muslim, condemned Trump in an op-ed published in The New York Times Friday.
“Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels,” wrote Mr. Anzari, whose family is Muslim. “It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.”