Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s campaign on Tuesday clarified controversial comments suggesting surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods should be intensified following the deadly bombings on Brussels' airport and subway.
Earlier in the day, the Texas senator said in a statement: "We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized."
After facing criticism for the comments, the campaign said Tuesday afternoon that the candidate is trying to say that police should have “every tool available” to provide security.
"We know what is happening with these isolated Muslim neighborhoods in Europe. If we want to prevent it from happening here, it is going to require an empowered, visible law enforcement presence that will both identify problem spots and partner with non-radical Americans who want to protect their homes,” campaign Press Secretary Catherine Frazier said in a statement.
She went on to cite the example of New York City pulling back on law enforcement efforts with Muslim communities, and said: “Ted Cruz will never allow political correctness to drive decisions about our security. ... The police should have every tool available to follow leads and take action against those who would do us harm.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, earlier had condemned Cruz's suggestion of surveillance, saying it sends "an alarming message to American-Muslims who increasingly fear for their future in this nation and to all Americans who value the Constitution and religious liberties."
The Islamic State has taken credit for the Brussels attacks that killed dozens Tuesday and wounded many more. The attacks quickly dominated the discussion on the U.S. presidential campaign trail.
Donald Trump, who spoke to Fox News as developments in Brussels were unfolding, said he had warned about such attacks. "Brussels was a beautiful city, a beautiful place with zero crime, and now it's a disaster city. A total disaster," he said.
Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, campaigning in Arizona on Tuesday, said boosting national security and protecting civil rights must go hand-in-hand. He said he strongly disagrees with calls by some Republicans for heightened domestic surveillance of Muslims.
"That would be unconstitutional -- it would be wrong," Sanders said.
Asked about Cruz's earlier comment, none of a half-dozen conservative House Republicans meeting with reporters Tuesday criticized him and most spoke of the need to keep the country safe.
"Nearly every neighborhood is patrolled. That's what local law enforcement does," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who has endorsed Cruz. He said he didn't know specifically what Cruz was referring to.
Fox News’ Hillary Vaughn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.