Veteran journalist Barbara Walters sat down with Donald Trump and challenged the Republican presidential front-runner on his proposal to suspend all Muslim immigration and tourist travel to the US.
In the Tuesday interview on ABC’s “World News Tonight,” Walters asked Trump: “Are you a bigot?”
Trump was unequivocal that he was not prejudiced against Muslims.
“Not at all. Probably the least of anybody you’ve ever met,” Trump replied.
“Because?” Walters pressed.
“Because I’m not,” Trump said. “I’m a person that has common sense. I’m a smart person. I know how to run things. I know how to make America great again. This is about making America great again.”
Trump ignited a national firestorm on Monday when he announced a proposal for the “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US until “hatred” in the religion is figured out. He later said that there would be some exceptions, such as US citizens and foreign leaders.
The real-state mogul made the announcement in the aftermath of last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, and last month’s terror attack in Paris, France. Both massacres were linked to the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
Walters noted to Trump that some of the fierce critics of Trump’s plan — including those in the Republican Party — said his hard-line proposal would inadvertently help the Islamic State by boosting its claim that its battle is part of a larger Islamic war against the West.
“There are many, even in your own party, who think that ISIS is going to like your rhetoric, that your words are putting us in greater danger,” Walters said.
But Trump insisted that his rivals in the Republican primary were simply trying to boost their poll numbers.
“I’m the worst thing that’s ever happened to ISIS,” Trump said. “The people in my party fully understand that. They’re running against me. For the most part, they have no poll numbers; I’m leading by a lot. They get it. They’re trying to get publicity for themselves.”
Trump also claimed that his Muslim friends support his proposal “100%.”
“Somebody in this country has to say what’s right. … I have people that I have tremendous relationships with, they’re Muslim, and Barbara, they agree with me 100%,” Trump said. “It’s short-term. Let the country get its act together. They knocked down the World Trade Center; they tried doing it twice. Other things have happened.”
Trump added, “There are people who have tremendously bad intentions. We have to be tough. We have to be smart. And we have to be vigilant.”
NOW WATCH: The Muslim woman who blasted Trump while wearing an American flag hijab is owning her haters
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.