Donald Trump has insisted he has Muslims friends who think his call for them to be barred from entering the USA is "brilliant and so fantastic", as he faces mounting accusations of Islamophobia.
The former 'Apprentice' star turned presidential candidate defended his remarks following smackdowns from the likes of David Cameron and Boris Johnson, insisting on Wednesday he was acting in the Islamic community's best interests.
"I'm doing good for the Muslims" Trump told CNN.
"Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me. They say, 'Donald, you brought something up to the fore that is so brilliant and so fantastic.'"
"I have many friends who are Muslims," he added. "They're phenomenal people. They are so happy at what I'm doing."
But Trump's attempt to row back from being too closely tied to his divisive policies, including a blanket halt to all Muslim immigration to the US, is failing to mitigate the public backlash in Britain.
A petition set up accusing him of "hate speech" and called for him to be banned from the UK had reached 400,000 signatures early on Thursday morning.
The petition was at one point attracting more than seven signatories a second, having been online for just two days.
It has since passed the required threshold - 100,000 people - to be considered for a debate in the House of Commons, although it would not be the first time Trump's remarks were aired in parliament.
SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh called on the government to make Trump the 85th "hate preacher" banned from entering Britain at a fiery exchange during yesterday's Prime Minister's Question Time.
“Frankly, Donald Trump’s comments fly in the face of the founding principles of the United States and it’s one of the reasons why those founding principles have proved such an inspiration to so many people over the last couple of hundred years," George Osborne - standing in for David Cameron - said.
"I think the best way to defeat nonsense like this is to engage in robust democratic debate and make it clear his views are not welcome.”