Donald Trump has defended himself against accusations of Islamophobia by saying he has at least 20 friends who are Muslim – but stopped short of naming them.
The Republican presidential candidate has previously said “I love the Muslims” despite provocative polices that include calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and a database to track the movements of those already living there.
Asked by the Telegraph who his Muslim backers were, Trump reportedly ducked the question. He said: “Oh, I could give you about 20 of them.”
The newspaper added that Trump’s son was also unable to shine light on any of his father’s Muslim friends. He did, however, say they had “completed a lot of business deals” in the Middle East.
The former star of the US version of the Apprentice made the comments moments after coming off stage in Sunday’s Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.
During the debate Trump added torture to the contest by saying that he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”. He has previously touted the benefits of waterboarding – which stimulates drowning – telling a crowd at a campaign rally last year that “you bet your ass” he would reintroduce the method of torture.
Following the shooting in San Bernadino last year, in which 14 people were killed in an attack by supporters of the so-called Islamic State, the billionaire business mogul responded by calling for all Muslims to be banned from the United States.