Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump stuck with the incendiary immigration views he expressed when he declared his presidential bid, saying in Thursday night's debate that Mexican leaders "send the bad ones" to the U.S.
Defiant from the start of the debate, Trump was asked to reveal the specific evidence he has to back his presidential bid claims that Mexico sends rapists, criminals and drug users to the U.S. He said Border Patrol and "people that I deal with" had told him this.
"They say this is what's happening because our leaders are stupid, our politicians are stupid and the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning and they send the bad ones over because they don't want to pay for them, they don't want to take care of them. Why should they when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for them and that's what's happening whether you like it or not," Trump said.
Trump had tried to downplay expectations of him and play nice in the debate but from the start he was the one candidate to refuse to pledge to back the eventual GOP presidential nominee. He also rejected criticism of comments he's made over time regarding women.
"I think the big problem the country has is being politically correct," Trump said, drawing cheers. " ... I simply don't have time for political correctness."
Trump's view on Mexicans and immigrants have been widely dismissed as racist and bigoted, but he went into Thursday's debate leading the Republican field in polling. However, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed him as disliked by 75 percent of Hispanics, who will be a critical vote to get in the general election should he win the nomination.
Trump's immigration views didn't sit well with Theresa Speake of Alexandria, Va., Virginia Hispanic Republican Advisory Council.
"I am appalled at the arrogance of Trump and the disrespect he is displaying," she said in a text to NBC News during the debate. "It would not be the kind of attitude I would expect of the leader of our country! I could not support that type of attitude."
Instead, she said she "fully" supports the immigration plan of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, including securing the border and bringing those folks in the country illegally to a legal status _ not amnesty.