During a raucous rally in South Carolina on Monday night, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump expanded on his calls to temporarily prevent Muslims from entering the U.S., drawing cheers from the crowd.
Despite near universal condemnation from his presidential rivals of both parties, Trump defended the statement he released earlier in the day in which he made the case that Muslims represented a security threat to America. "We can't let people kill us," Trump told supporters who had gathered at the USS Yorktown, a decommissioned aircraft carrier turned museum located in the town of Mount Pleasant.
"You're going to have more World Trade Centers,'' Trump said, a reference to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. "We can be politically correct or we can be stupid, but it's going to get worse and worse.''
In part, Trump's warning stemmed from the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California, which the billionaire argued in his statement justified his plan to halt Muslims from entering the country "until we are able to determine and understand this problem."
Speaking in South Carolina, Trump repeated the disputed statistics he cited earlier today about Muslims supporting violence against America and said, "we're out of control.''
"We have no idea who's coming into our country,'' he said. "We have no idea they love us or they hate us. We have no idea they want to bomb us.''
To emphasize his point, he added, "I have friends who are Muslims, they're great people. They know we have a problem.''
Other 2016 presidential candidates criticized Trump's statement, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush calling the real estate mogul "unhinged'' and Ohio Governor John Kasich condemning what he called Trump's "outrageous divisiveness.''
Trump noted that Republican rival Chris Christie, whom he called a friend, also criticized his statement today. Trump then launched an attack on Christie, saying the New Jersey governor knew about the closing of the George Washington Bridge for political reasons, presided over nine state credit downgrades, and was "friendly'' with President Barack Obama during Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.
The Republican front-runner also mocked Obama's address to the nation on the subject of the strategy to defeat the Islamic State, criticizing the president for refusing to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism.''
"I watched a president truly that didn't know what he was doing,'' Trump said. "I don't even know if he knows what the hell is going on.''
The real estate mogul blamed the press for some of the criticism of his comments, calling some reporters "absolute scum.''
"The mainstream media wants to surrender our constitution and our constitutional rights, and I don’t want that,'' he said. "I want ISIS to surrender.''
Trump repeated his call to monitor mosques and called on people to report suspicious activity, saying, "Don't worry about profiling. I promise, I will defend you from profiling.''
At another point, he called for "closing that Internet up in some way'' in certain areas because of people who get recruited to terrorist groups.
Trump was interrupted several times by protesters who were drowned out by chants of "Trump! Trump! Trump!'' and "USA! USA!'' from the standing-room only crowd of several hundred who cheered as the dissenters were escorted out.
Several supporters attending the rally said they support Trump's position.
"The problem is in the vetting,'' said Scott Garland, 53, of Charleston, who is retired from the Air Force. "As long as we know who we are letting in here, it's OK.''
Others said they don't trust press reporting and want to hear more details about what Trump is proposing.
"If he wants to make people wait five days, I don’t have a problem with that,'' said Mike Gorski, 58, who owns a car service business in Charleston. "If it's five years, I might not agree.''
Trump didn't offer a specific timeframe for keeping Muslims out of the U.S. during his speech in South Carolina, however.
Kevin Blair of Charleston, 50, who runs a charter fishing business, said he hasn't decided whether to back Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He said he's not bothered by Trump's rivals condemning his stance on barring Muslims.
"We should know who we are letting in, no matter who they are,'' Blair said. "He's just saying, 'Be cautious.'''