By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several Republican presidential candidates insisted Syrian refugees pose a potential danger to America and should not be allowed into the country, despite growing criticism within and outside their party for some of their statements.
The debate about accepting Syrian refugees has grown since the Nov. 13 attacks by Islamic State in Paris that killed 130 people.
Appearing on Sunday on ABC's "This Week" Donald Trump was asked if he was "unequivocally" ruling out a database to track all Muslims.
"No, not at all," he said.
But then he suggested the database would focus more on refugees than all Muslim Americans.
"I want a database for the refugees," Trump said. "We have no idea who these people are. When the Syrian refugees are going to start pouring into this country, we don't know if they're ISIS, we don't know if it's a Trojan horse. And I definitely want a database and other checks and balances."
Ohio Governor John Kasich, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press", continued his days-long attack against Trump's database comments, calling the idea nonsense.
"I flat out condemned the idea that we were going to have Muslims register," he said. "The idea that we're going to repel an entire group of people on the basis of their religion, it's nonsense."
Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended his argument that the administration can't be trusted to vet refugees, adding "orphans under the age of five" shouldn't be admitted to the country because there is no one to care for them.
"The FBI director himself said they can't vet these folks," Christie said in an interview on CNN when asked about his comments regarding children. "The FBI director sat before Congress last week and said they cannot vet these folks."
Trump did back away from comments on closing mosques. In an interview on Tuesday, Trump said the United States was "going to have no choice" but to close mosques.
But on Sunday, Trump said: "I don’t want to close mosques; I want to surveil mosques."
Trump also repeated his support for renewing the use of waterboarding, calling the torture technique "peanuts" compared to beheadings conducted by ISIS.
Ben Carson, who faced criticism this week for comparing Syrian refugees to "rabid dogs", wouldn't say whether he would reinstate the use of waterboarding.
"I'm not real big on telling them what we would or would not do," Carson said.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Alana Wise and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Stephen Powell)