Slammed for advocating a ban on all Muslims from entering the US, leading Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump has said he is “doing good for the Muslims” and is the “least racist person”.
“I’m doing good for the Muslims. Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me. They say, ‘Donald, you brought something up to the fore that is so brilliant and so fantastic,'” Trump told CNN, days after he called for for “a complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the US, drawing worldwide rebuke.
Among those reaching out to thank him for his strategy, the 69-year-old Republican front-runner said, was “one of the most important people in Middle East”.
Trump, however, did not reveal the name of the person who called to say, “Donald, you’re doing a great service.”
“I have many friends who are Muslims. They’re phenomenal people. They are so happy at what I’m doing,” he said.
Trump said he loves the Middle East and the people there.
Asked if he is bigoted or Islamophobic, Trump replied with a firm no. “I am the least racist person that you have ever met.”
He also asserted that his plan had been misrepresented and explained that the immigration ban may not last long.
“It could go quickly, but it’s a subject that has to be discussed,” he said, adding that there would be exceptions for Muslim athletes and diplomats.
Trump pinned the fierce backlash that followed his call on Republican establishment figures and his primary opponents.
“The group that is not criticising me,” he said, “is the public. The public agrees with what I said. They saw those two animals last week go out and shoot people (in California).”
On a possible independent run for the White House, Trump said he was not likely to wage a third-party candidacy, but the billionaire businessman would not rule it out.
“I think it’s highly unlikely unless they break the pledge to me, because it’s a two-way street,” Trump said.
“They said they would be honourable. So far, they, I can’t tell you if they are, but the establishment is not exactly being very good to me,” he said.
“If they don’t treat me with a certain amount of decorum and respect. If they don’t treat me as the front-runner…If the playing field is not level, then certainly all options are open. But that’s nothing I want to do…I’ll know that over a period of a couple months. We’ll go through the primaries.
We’ll see what happens, and I’ll make a determination,” he added.
On being likened to Adolf Hitler, Trump said the comparisons did not upset him.