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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson September 21, 2016

Donald Trump says he never called for profiling Muslims

During an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump pleaded innocence when asked whether he supports profiling Muslims as a way of preventing terrorism.

O’Reilly asked Trump, "When you say that you're going to profile certain Muslims, are you ever worried that the peaceful Muslims, and there are millions of American … are you worried that sometimes when you say these things, (that) peaceful Muslims will be the victim of backlash, the victim of people just lumping everybody into the terror jar?"

Trump responded, "Well, first of all, I never said that they were Muslims. You did. You told me Muslims. I didn't say that. I am saying ... people that maybe look suspicious. I didn't say they were Muslims."

Is it true that Trump didn’t suggest profiling Muslims as a security measure? We checked Trump’s past comments and concluded that he’s correct only in the narrowest sense.

The O’Reilly interview

The strictest way to interpret Trump’s comment is that he only denied saying those words in O’Reilly’s interview. But even this limited claim has some problems.

Earlier in the interview, O’Reilly had asked, "You want to profile Arab or Muslim men. How would that work?"

Trump responded, "Well, we have no choice. Look, Israel does it. And Israel does it very successfully."

This wasn’t the first interview in which Trump had accepted a question premised on the idea that he wants to profile Muslims.

In a June 19, 2016, interview with John Dickerson on CBS’ Face the Nation, Dickerson asked, "Are you talking about increasing profiling of Muslims in America?"

Trump responded, "Well, I think profiling is something that we're going to have to start thinking about as a country. And other countries do it. And you look at Israel and you look at others, and they do it. And they do it successfully. And I hate the concept of profiling. But we have to start using common sense, and we have to use our heads."

Previous statements

A more common pattern we found in Trump’s past comments was to talk explicitly about the specific security measures he would consider for Muslims, but without using the word "profiling."

A good example is surveillance of mosques, which seems like an obvious case of a policy that targets a security procedure to people of a specific religion.

For instance, in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Nov. 16, 2015, Trump was asked about shutting down mosques.

"Well, I would hate to do it, but it's something you're going to have to strongly consider." He repeated the call in another appearance that day, saying, "You're going to have to watch and study the mosques, because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques."

He echoed this call five days later in remarks at a rally in Birmingham, Ala., saying, "I want surveillance of certain mosques if that's okay. We've had it before."

And on two more recent occasions, he revived the call for mosque surveillance. One came on June 13, 2016, in comments on Fox & Friends: "We have to be very strong in terms of looking at the mosques, you know, which a lot of people say, 'Oh, we don't want to do that. We don't want to do that.' We're beyond that."

The other came in the interview we cited earlier with John Dickerson on June 19, 2016.

Dickerson asked, "And you said you would check respectfully the mosques. How do you respectfully check a mosque?"

"Well, you do as they used to do in New York, prior to this mayor dismantling," Trump said. "By the way, if you go to France right now, they're doing it in France. In fact, in some instances, they are closing down mosques. People don't want to talk about it. People aren't talking about it. But look at what they're doing in France. They are actually closing down mosques."

Then there was the statement from the campaign on "preventing Muslim immigration," personally signed by Trump on Dec. 7, 2015. "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 statement said in part.

We should note that we found one case in which Trump expressed caution about a kind of special security treatment for Muslims -- access to guns and ammunition.

In the interview with CBS’ Dickerson, the host asked Trump, "When you talk about political correctness, should a Muslim buying ammunition and weapons get extra scrutiny?"

Trump answered, "I don't know about that."

The Trump campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this article.

Our ruling

Trump told O’Reilly that he "never said" Muslims would be subject to profiling under his policies.

On two occasions -- including once earlier in the same O’Reilly interview -- a questioner asked him about his proposal to profile Muslims, and Trump did not object to that description. He has also repeatedly suggested other types of security policies that would specifically target Muslims, including mosque surveillance and an ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The statement is not accurate, so we rate it False.

Our Sources

Washington Post, "Donald Trump’s interview with Bill O’Reilly was an instant classic," Sept. 20, 2016

Donald Trump, "Donald J. Trump Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration," Dec. 7, 2015

CNN, "Donald Trump: 'Strongly consider' shutting mosques," Nov. 16, 2015

CNN, "Trump: 'I want surveillance of certain mosques,' " Nov. 21, 2015

CBS News, Face the Nation transcript, June 19, 2016

The Hill, "Trump calls for 'looking at the mosques,' " June 13, 2016

New York Times, "Donald Trump Says He’d ‘Absolutely’ Require Muslims to Register," Nov. 20, 2016

New York Times, "Donald Trump Steps Back From Calling for Muslim Registry," Nov. 20, 2016

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Donald Trump says he never called for profiling Muslims

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