GOP leaders distance themselves from Trump Muslim comments

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks during a rally coinciding with Pearl Harbor Day at Patriots Point aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – Less than a day after GOP Presidential front-runner Donald Trump introduced a proposal to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States, several Republican candidates and Congressional leaders distanced themselves from the controversy.

“These are people who only believe in Jihad, they don’t want our system,” said Trump on Monday while describing Muslims living abroad hoping to reach the United States.

Trump’s plan, which was released through his website, would require an immediate shutdown of programs that allow Muslims to enter the U.S.

Republicans push back

Within hours, Trump’s plan was panned by critics and Republican leaders who felt his comments were ultimately hurting the party’s chances at winning back the White House in 2016.

“Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a tweet.

“I’m not concerned about lasting damage for our party, I’m concerned about standing up for our country’s principals,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House during a press conference on Tuesday.

Democrats seize the moment

Trump’s comments were not surprisingly trashed by Democrats and Muslim American activists.

On Sunday, President Obama specifically asked for Americans to avoid turning to discrimination in the wake of a deadly rampage in Southern California possibly inspired by ISIS. By Tuesday, other Democrats were once again echoing the president’s call for calm.

“The toxic, ignorant language that has been directed at Muslim Americans in recent weeks is shameful.  It strengthens ISIS and insults the patriotism of millions of Americans – many of whom have given their lives in the defense of our country,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Minority leader in the House of Representatives.

“Declaring war on Islam or demonizing Muslim Americans is not only counter to our values—it plays right into the hands of terrorists,” said former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Follow Mark Meredith on Twitter @markpmeredith.

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