Three months after Donald Trump issued a controversial call on the campaign trail to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, his campaign staff reportedly reached out to a number of Arab states imploring them to disregard Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during the race for the presidency.
According to a report on Thursday in the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news network, staff from the now president-elect’s campaign team contacted several Arab embassies in Washington to tell them to “ignore Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail” — even as the campaign was still underway.
Arab diplomatic sources told Al-Arabiya that the brash billionaire, who won a stunning victory in the presidential race over Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, sought to allay fears and reassure Arab states where he has business interests that “what is being said on the campaign trail is different from how he would govern,” and that he “looks forward to do business together and explore opportunities were he to win the presidency.”
Trump first made the controversial demand to restrict Muslims from entering the US in a December 7, 2015, statement in which he said there should be a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which should continue “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” He also read out the statement at a campaign rally. The statement came a day after a radicalized Muslim couple shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, and followed the November 13 Paris terror attacks in which 130 people were killed and 368 injured in a series of shootings and bombings claimed by the Islamic State terror group.
Most of the states approached by Trump’s campaign staff, according to the Al-Arabiya report, were from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
On Wednesday, the controversial call to ban Muslim entry to the United States — a statement that has drawn sharp criticism from across the world — was expunged from Trump’s campaign website.
According to The Independent, the page on his website linking to the statement was still available on Tuesday, the morning of the election, and was removed as voting results came in showing Trump beating Clinton. It now sends visitors to a donation page instead. The Trump campaign did not comment on the alteration to the site.
AP contributed to this report.