PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Days after igniting a public outcry over her his plan to bar Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S., Donald Trump downplayed the controversy following him Thursday night.
The presidential candidate never used the words “Muslim” or “Islam” during his brief remarks to the New England Police Benevolent Association, which offered its endorsement to the New York businessman. Instead, he referred obliquely to the firestorm swirling around him.
“We’ve had a pretty interesting couple of days,” he said to laughter. “We’ve had people talking, I will tell you that.”
Outside, more than two hundred protestors gathered with signs bearing messages like “Ban Trump, not Muslims.” It was the largest protest Trump has passed in New Hampshire, but he brushed off the reaction.
The scene about to greet Donald Trump as he arrives in Portsmouth, NH. pic.twitter.com/j16GtjG5e7— Brad Mielke (@TheBradMielke) December 11, 2015
“I mentioned illegal immigration,” he recalled of his campaign kickoff, in which he called for a wall stretching across the southern border. “The heat was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. Far greater than what’s happened over the last couple of days.”
The uproar has only boosted Trump’s poll numbers. A New York Times/CBS poll conducted before and after his statement on Muslim immigrants saw his national support rise to its highest levels this year.
Trump, with a hoarse voice, spent just ten minutes on stage, as NEPBA officials decided to award him their endorsement. Their options were limited, though –- after announcing the union would only consider candidates they met in person, Trump was the only one to take up their offer. He left without taking questions from the press.
Across the street from protestors, Mary Donnelly carried a sign in support of Trump, saying she agreed with his plan.
“The Muslim belief -– in my opinion, that belief does not belong in this country,” she said. She added that there was little he could say that would be so offensive as to lose her support.
“Not a thing,” she said. “The silent majority has not been heard. We are now being heard.”