Donald Trump was asked in an interview about whether Muslims should be subject to special scrutiny, a question he answered ambiguously. He later declared that Muslims should be required to register in a database.
Donald Trump did not assert that Muslims should wear identifying badges.
On 19 November 2015 The Hill website published an article titled “Trump won’t rule out database, special ID for Muslims in US,” which reported on an interview given by Donald Trump after a series of terror attacks hit Paris on 13 November 2015:
“Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy,” he added. “We’re going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Trump would not rule out warrantless searches in his plans for increased surveillance of the nation’s Muslims, Yahoo reported.
He also remained open toward registering U.S. Muslims in a database or giving them special identification identifying their faith, the news outlet added.
“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump continued. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
The comments attributed to Trump caused immediate controversy on Twitter, where a number of users compared the described mandating of badges to similar treatment of Jews in Europe before the Holocaust:
Trump goes Full Adolf: Muslims should be forced to carry special IDs: https://t.co/aKW95ADQb9
— G. Willow Wilson (@GWillowWilson) November 19, 2015
— JS2 (@___JS2) November 19, 2015
However, The Hill was a secondary source for the comments, which were originally published in a 19 November 2015 Yahoo! Politics article titled “Donald Trump has big plans for ‘radical Islamic’ terrorists, 2016 and ‘that communist’ Bernie Sanders.”
In the context of that interview, Trump’s responses were non-committal. Furthermore, they were clearly in response to leading questions, the actual phrasing of which wasn’t provided to readers:
But Trump … has concerns about the larger Muslim community here in the U.S., he said.
Yahoo News asked Trump whether his push for increased surveillance of American Muslims could include warrantless searches. He suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures.
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule … certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
Precisely how such a question was presented to Trump was not elaborated upon in the printed text of the interview, nor was what his exact response (not “rul[ing] it out”) entailed. Moreover, the portions involving quotes were so exceptionally vague (“do things that we never did before,” “certain things will be done”) and full of obfuscation, it was impossible to discern even vaguely what Trump wasr eferencing. (The mandate of badges for Muslims was quite a leap by any measure.)
While it appeared Trump fielded a question about enhanced surveillance for Muslims and mosques, in no reasonable interpretation of the material provided did he himself suggest that followers of Islam should wear badges like Jews in Nazi Germany. That assertion appeared to be one fronted by the interviewer and not fairly attributable to Donald Trump. It’s true that Trump espoused a position many would deem objectionable or offensive in the little he did say, but the controversy hinged largely on words he didn’t appear to have said.
On 20 November 2015, The New York Times published an article titled “Donald Trump Says He’d ‘Absolutely’ Require Muslims to Register.” In that article Trump was pressed on his earlier statements, and he deflected the question in similarly vague fashion:
Donald J. Trump, who earlier in the week said he was open to requiring Muslims in the United States to register in a database, said that he “would certainly implement that — absolutely.”
Mr. Trump was asked about the issue by an NBC News reporter and pressed on whether all Muslims in the country would be forced to register. “They have to be,” he said. “They have to be.”
When asked how a system of registering Muslims would be carried out — whether, for instance, mosques would be where people could register — Mr. Trump said: “Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management. Our country has no management.”
Asked later, as he signed autographs, how such a database would be different from Jews having to register in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump repeatedly said, “You tell me,” until he stopped responding to the question.
Trump later posted a tweet clarifying that the “database” suggestion came from a reporter:
In the tweet Trump mentioned a “watch list” and surveillance, presumably the “measures” he referenced in an initially ambiguous fashion. Like the original paraphrased material published by Yahoo! Politics, the Times‘ followup piece included partial quotes from Trump without providing any information about the specific question to which Trump was responding.
Trump didn’t go into detail about who might be on such a “watch list,” or even whether it would be one that deviated from extant terror watch lists adopted after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Portions of the two articles in which Trump was quoted used the phrase “registering Muslims,” but only in the context of an undescribed question asked by a reporter (and not a response from Trump).