Mike Pence Disavows Donald Trump’s Earlier Proposal Barring Muslims

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Mike Pence Disavows Donald Trump’s Earlier Proposal Barring Muslims

By ALAN RAPPEPORTOCT. 6, 2016

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Mike Pence, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, was at a rally at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, Va., on Wednesday. Credit Chet Strange for The New York Times

The Trump campaign appeared to disavow one of its most provocative policy proposals on Thursday, as Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana said explicitly that Donald J. Trump no longer wanted to impose a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the United States.

In a round of television interviews in which he was asked to clarify once and for all where the campaign stands on the proposal, Mr. Pence, who opposed the ban before becoming Mr. Trump’s running mate, declared the idea dead. The reversal is a significant one for the Trump campaign, which was accused of promoting a policy that was discriminatory and probably unconstitutional when Mr. Trump unveiled it in the name of national security last year.

Asked on CNN about why he will not condemn the Muslim ban now, Mr. Pence said, “Because that’s not Donald Trump’s position now.”

Why isn't Mike Pence condemning Trump's past call for a Muslim ban? "Because it's not Donald Trump's position now" https://t.co/9fAIpGXCd4

— New Day (@NewDay) Oct. 6, 2016

In recent months, Mr. Trump has changed how he has talked about the ban, saying that “extreme vetting” of immigrants should be focused on people coming from countries that have been compromised by terrorists. But that idea led to more confusion, because it was not clear if it was an expansion of the Muslim ban or a shift away from it.

Mr. Pence appeared to imply in August that he would be open to broadening the ban to other religions, but the emphasis was placed on geography.

“That’s what Donald Trump and I are calling for now, is to have a temporary suspension of immigration from countries or territories compromised by terrorism, and I believe that’s an appropriate action given the horrendous, horrendous violence that we see,” Mr. Pence told Charlie Sykes, a Wisconsin talk radio host, at the time.

Historians have compared Mr. Trump’s Muslim ban to some of the darkest moments in American history, likening it to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The timing of Mr. Pence’s latest remarks may not be a coincidence. Polls have shown a majority of Americans oppose the concept of barring Muslims, while Republicans remain divided about it. The retreat on Thursday was the latest example of the Trump campaign changing a position as the election approaches.

Graphic

Trump Vows to Stop Immigration From Nations ‘Compromised’ by Terrorism. How Could It Work?

An analysis of how a ban could be carried out and how many people would be affected.

OPEN Graphic

Mr. Trump recently softened his position on immigration, forgoing his calls for mass deportation in favor of a focus on “criminal aliens.” Mr. Pence was also one of the first members of the campaign to publicly acknowledge that President Obama was born in the United States, paving the way for Mr. Trump to finally end his false conspiracy theory about Mr. Obama’s birthplace last month.

During the vice-presidential debate this week, Mr. Pence brushed off many of Mr. Trump’s startling comments from the campaign, disregarding some as reflecting a lack of political polish and denying that others were ever said.

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But critics of Mr. Trump are not letting his campaign off the hook for the Muslim ban so easily.

“Governor Pence’s flagrant attempts to mislead voters on his running mate’s positions aren’t fooling anyone,” said Zara Rahim, a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign. “Not only has Trump proposed an unconstitutional immigration ban on an entire religion, but he’s suggested creating a database that tracks Muslims in this country.”

She added, “Pence has not disavowed anything, he’s just lied to the American people once again.”

Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that Mr. Trump could not simply turn the page on the Muslim ban.

“Whatever the Trump campaign claims is the current version of its Muslim ban, the original absolutist language of a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ — along with other bigoted statements — reflect a systematic and toxic use of Islamophobia that has had a tremendously harmful impact on the lives of ordinary American Muslims and on the unity of our nation,” Mr. Awad said.

Despite efforts to quietly backtrack on the proposal, the Trump campaign has continued to face questions about the ban because the news release from last December announcing the proposal has not been removed from Mr. Trump’s website.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” the release said.

But in a separate interview on MSNBC on Thursday, Mr. Pence made clear that the Muslim ban was no longer on the table. Such a proposal, he seemed to suggest, would be absurd.

“So not a ban on all Muslims?” Joe Scarborough, the host of “Morning Joe,” asked Mr. Pence.

“Of course not,” Mr. Pence replied.

Find out what you need to know about the 2016 presidential race today, and get politics news updates via Facebook, Twitter and the First Draft newsletter.

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