NEWARK, N.J. – Congressmen, rival candidates, world leaders and even the creators of Harry Potter and "The Shining" all agree: Donald Trump's call to block Muslims from entering the United States goes too far.
The Republican presidential front-runner's statement Monday advocating a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" was blasted as bigoted, unconstitutional and potentially dangerous for American interests abroad.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, breaking the custom of British leaders not commenting on U.S. presidential contenders, slammed it as "divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong." U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced "any kind of rhetoric that relies on Islamophobia, xenophobia, any other appeal to hate any groups."
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling decried Trump on Twitter as worse than her fictional villain Lord Voldemort. Horror novelist Stephen King wrote, "That anyone in America would even CONSIDER voting for this rabid coyote leaves me speechless."
"This is not conservatism," Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters after a closed-door GOP caucus meeting. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly it's not what this country stands for."
Trump's campaign has been marked by inflammatory statements, dating back to rhetoric that some Mexican immigrants, who entered the country illegally, are drug smugglers and rapists — but even that didn't evoke the same widespread level of contempt.
The billionaire businessman and former reality television star has maintained his lead in early opinion surveys, despite the controversies, vexing his Republican rivals and alarming a GOP establishment in panic over the damage they fear he's doing to a deeply divided party.
Trump, who appears to revel in the attention, didn't back down from his proposal Tuesday, saying that banning Muslims "until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on" is warranted after last month's attacks by Muslim extremists in Paris and last week's shootings in San Bernardino, California.
"Somebody in this country has to say what's right," Trump said in an interview with ABC Tuesday. "It's short-term. Let our country get its act together."
Trump's proposed ban would apply to immigrants and visitors alike, a sweeping prohibition affecting adherents of a religion practiced by more than a billion people worldwide. Trump clarified in a round of television interviews Tuesday that his proposed ban would not apply to American citizens traveling abroad and would allow exemptions for certain people, including the leaders of Middle Eastern countries and athletes for certain sporting events.
Among those not specified in his list of exemptions are Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and the four civil society groups that led Tunisia's transition to democracy — all Muslim Nobel Peace Prize winners.
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest lambasted Trump as a "carnival barker" and called on his rivals to denounce their fellow candidate.
"What he said is disqualifying," Earnest said. "Any Republican who's too fearful of the Republican base to admit it has no business serving as president, either."
Colvin reported from Newark, New Jersey. Associated Press writers Mark Sherman, Laurie Kellman, Josh Lederman and Alan Fram in Washington, Bill Barrow in South Carolina, Thomas Beaumont in New Hampshire and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
Follow Jill Colvin on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/colvinj