Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Tuesday condemned Donald Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
"I don't agree," Priebus said. "We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism but not at the expense of our American values."
Priebus, speaking to the Washington Examiner during an interview on next week's televised Republican presidential debate hosted by CNN, joined a growing chorus from within his party that has criticized Trump over his plan to implement a religious test for entry into the country. The New York real estate mogul and reality television star, a front-runner for the GOP's 2016 nomination, has been criticized by most of his Republican primary opponents, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, rank-and-file conservatives and center-right foreign policy strategists.
Trump offered his proposal in the wake of the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., committed by radical Islamists that left 14 dead and more than 20 wounded. Priebus, pressed further on the implications of Trump's plan on the future of the GOP and its presumed battle against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election, declined to answer. "That's as far as I'm going to go," he said, referring to his initial answer."
But Priebus expressed excitement about next Tuesday's debate in Las Vegas. He seemed optimistic that the prime time cablecast would show the GOP and its full breadth of presidential contenders in a positive light heading into next year's voting. After some carping from the GOP candidates about the format and structure of some of the first four debates earlier this fall, Priebus said most camps appear to be happy with the process.
"At every debate we learn a lot and are trying to do better," Priebus said. "It's not easy and there a lot of moving parts. But with 14 candidates and 14 different opinions we're doing pretty well. I would suspect the upcoming debate in Vegas is going to be great. We're getting no signs of anxiety or concerns. We reach out to the candidates a lot and I think they're pleased. I heard a lot of compliments from adding in Iowa and New Hampshire polling into the mix and I think that was ready to be done."
Priebus this year implemented new GOP rules designed to give the national party more control over the presidential primary debate process. So, he has taken heat from the candidates when they haven't been happy with how the news networks that host the debates have run things. Some of that criticism has involved the standards the networks have used to determine who qualifies for the debate. They have generally relied on national polling, but for this next debate, CNN also is examining a candidate's standing in Iowa and New Hampshire to decide whether they qualify for the prime time stage or whether to relegate them to the undercard debate.