Undeterred by howls of outrage and condemnation over his call to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, Republican front-runner Donald Trump issued dire warnings Tuesday that Islamic terrorists will again stage attacks like the 2001 destruction of the twin towers unless an entry ban is imposed.
"I don't care about them," Mr. Trump, the billionaire property magnate, said of the chorus of condemnation by his rivals, rights groups, U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders overseas.
"I'm doing what's right," Mr. Trump insisted, claiming Islamist terror cells "want our buildings to come down [and] our cities to be crushed." He told CNN: "They are living within our country. And many of them want to come from outside."
As the furor grew, the White House waded into the Republican presidential race, with Mr. Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest, saying Mr. Trump – who long tormented the President over whether he was born in the United States – was unfit to be president.
"What he said is disqualifying," Mr. Earnest said, dubbing Mr. Trump a "carnival barker."
The sometime-reality TV star has shocked the Republican establishment and won a loyal following with his blunt outspokenness and willingness to defy the political elites on hot-button issues such as deporting the more than 10 million Mexicans living unlawfully in the United States.
"We can close our eyes," Mr. Trump said. "We can put the blinders on, but I don't choose to do that."
On Tuesday, the shock waves of his call to bar Muslims roiled around the world.
The Philadelphia Daily News put a picture of Mr. Trump, right arm outstretched, on its front page with the headline "The New Furor."
Some of his Republican rivals denounced him.
"Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton's Christmas gift wrapped up under a tree," said Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the crowded Republican field and a former Fortune 500 chief executive.
"All this helps is his buddy Hillary Clinton, for sure," said former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the party establishment's expected front-runner who was quickly overtaken by Mr. Trump's maverick campaign.
Democrats could scarcely conceal their delight at political advantage, even as they pounded Mr. Trump as an Islamophobe.
"Love trumps hate," tweeted Ms. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner who polls better against Mr. Trump than any of the more mainstream Republicans candidates.
Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor and long-shot Democratic presidential candidate, said Mr. Trump was "running for president as a fascist demagogue."
Immigrant and rights groups vied to denounce Mr. Trump in the strongest terms.
"When you think Donald Trump has no lower place to go, he shocks us, and digs deeper into a racist and bigoted abyss," said Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
Overseas, a spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed Mr. Trump's call to bar all Muslims as "divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong."
Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion said: "We have never been as far removed from what we've just heard in the United States."
In Pakistan, a leading human-rights lawyer, Asma Jahangir, told the Express Tribune, that Mr. Trump displayed "the worst kind of bigotry mixed with ignorance." She added: "Someone who is hoping to become president of the U.S. doesn't want to compete with an ignorant criminal-minded mullah of Pakistan who denounces people of other religions."
Mr. Trump laughed off his critics as devotees of political correctness. Instead, he pointed to the example of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic U.S. president who ordered more than 100,000 people of Japanese heritage – including tens of thousands who were U.S. citizens – be forcibly taken from their homes and interned in camps after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.
"What I'm doing is no different than FDR," Mr. Trump said.
But the internment camps are now regarded as reprehensible treatment, a dark and shameful mass victimization by race. Decades later, Republican president Ronald Reagan signed into law compensation payments and a formal apology to Japanese-Americans.
The original print version and an earlier digital version of this article incorrectly quoted a Hillary Clinton tweet as saying "Love Trump's Hate." In fact, the tweet was "love trumps hate." This digital version has been corrected.