GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is doubling down on his xenophobic remarks about Muslims, even as they provoke widespread outrage and condemnation across the political spectrum.
On Tuesday, Trump defended his fascist plan for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" by comparing it with President Franklin Roosevelt's decision to inter Japanese Americans during World War II.
"This is a president who was highly respected by all," Trump said in morning TV interviews on Tuesday. "If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse."
But those who oppose Trump's controversial platform dispute his interpretation of both history and current events.
"For God's sake," Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Nihad Awad told ABC7 in Washington, D.C. on Monday night. "Haven't we learned lessons from history by targeting religious minorities and ethnic minorities?"
Flanked by members of Congress and civil rights leaders at a Virginia press conference earlier on Monday, Awad declared: "Donald Trump is using his platform to create a division within America. Leadership is about uniting Americans, not exploiting division based on race and religion. I know it is helping Donald Trump and others to stay high in the polls, but they are low in the minds of those who think and reflect upon our history."
Still, Awad and others warned that to write off Trump's bombast would be dangerous.
"Whatever else you want to say about him, Trump is a skillful entertainer, and good entertainers—like good fascist demagogues—know their audience."
—Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
"[I]t's important not to treat Trump as some radical aberration," The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald wrote on Tuesday. "He's essentially the American id, simply channeling pervasive sentiments unadorned with the typical diplomatic and PR niceties designed to prettify the prevailing mentality. He didn't propose banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. because it’s grounded in some fringe, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. He proposed it in part to commandeer media attention so as to distract attention away from his rivals and from that latest Iowa poll, but he also proposed it because he knows there is widespread anti-Muslim fear and hatred in the U.S."
He continued: "Whatever else you want to say about him, Trump is a skillful entertainer, and good entertainers—like good fascist demagogues—know their audience."
Noting that "cultural, religious, ideological, financial and tribalistic motives for isolating and demonizing Muslims" preexist Trump's candidacy, Greenwald warned: "Trump is not an outlier, and it’s dangerous to treat him as one."
White House hopeful Bernie Sanders, whom recent polls have shown would beat Trump in a general election match-up, added his censure to the mix in an email to supporters late Monday night.
"It's fun for the political media to treat Donald Trump like he's the lead character in a soap opera or the star player on a baseball team," Sanders said. "But the truth is his language is dangerous, especially as it empowers his supporters to act out against Muslims, Latinos, and African-Americans."
Other presidential contenders blasted Trump's comments as "unhinged," "fascist" and "downright dangerous."
And the watchdog group Media Matters revealed Monday that Trump's proposal leans on a misleading poll from a group led by "one of America's most notorious Islamophobes," Frank Gaffney, president of the conservative thinktank Center for Security Policy.
Members of New York City's Arab, Muslim, and human rights communities are planning to gather at Columbus Circle near the International Trump Tower on Thursday in solidarity with refugees and in protest of harmful racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.