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Ted Cruz defends call to police U.S. Muslim neighborhoods

Cruz is facing a backlash over his proposal to target Muslim Americans after the Brussels attacks
Ted Cruz defends proposal to patrol Muslim communities 07:49

Reacting to Tuesday's deadly terror attacks in Brussels, Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz proposed more resources for U.S. police to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized." During an interview with "CBS This Morning" Wednesday, Cruz doubled down on that plan, despite criticism from top law enforcement officials like New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton.

"We saw a horrific terror attack in Brussels and our prayers this morning are with the families of those murdered, of those wounded," Cruz said. "But what is important is that was not a lone wolf, that wasn't an isolated attack. It was radical Islamic terrorism. It was ISIS that has declared jihad, that is waging war on us."

Cruz pointed to a former New York City police unit that targeted Muslims for surveillance as a model for his proposals.

"New York City, under Mayor Bloomberg, had a program that focused on, worked proactively with Muslim communities to stop radicalization to prevent attacks from radical Islamic terrorism before they occur," Cruz said. "Now what happened? Mayor de Blasio came in and decided political correctness mattered more than keeping people safe. He disbanded the program."

Cruz and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio butted heads over the issue Tuesday, during the Texas senator's visit to Manhattan. And early Wednesday, Cruz once again berated de Blasio and other Democrats for their adherence to more "political correctness."

Ted Cruz reacts to Brussels terror attack 00:48

"President Obama and Hillary Clinton and sadly, Mayor de Blasio, the elected Democrats, are so bounded up by political correctness, they refuse to utter the words radical Islamic terrorism and they refuse to be serious in defeating it," he said.

NYPD Commissioner Bratton, for his part, told "CBS This Morning" in an interview Wednesday that Cruz has "no idea what the hell he's talking about."

And when "CBS This Morning" anchor Norah O'Donnell noted that the NYPD program was never proved to work, Cruz shot back: "It is true that the de Blasio political henchman say that. It is also true that the NYPD said it provided valuable intelligence."

O'Donnell continued to press Cruz on the issue, asking if he could list how many Muslims lived in the United States.

Cruz responded: "I don't know the number off the top of my head."

When O'Donnell noted that there were about three million Muslims in America -- and that it could be impractical for "overwhelmed" law enforcement agencies to police all of them, unlike in some of Europe's Muslim neighborhoods -- Cruz suggested that efforts could be concentrated on specific U.S. communities.

"You have communities, for example, in Minnesota," Cruz said. "You have communities in Michigan with heavy concentration [of Muslims] and you have incidents of radical Imams preaching Jihadism, preaching Islamism."

Cruz added that "there's a difference between Islam and Islamism."

"Islamism commands that you either murder the infidels or forcibly convert them," he said. "You wage jihad. And here's the consequence of President Obama and Hillary Clinton and Bill de Blasio refusing to acknowledge what we're fighting: You end up with policies that don't keep us safe."

Coming off a big win in Utah's caucus Tuesday night, Cruz also laid out his path forward in the race to the GOP nomination, asserting that a broad coalition of Republicans are coalescing behind his campaign as the only one able to defeat the current front-runner, Donald Trump.

In Utah, "we ended up with a landslide of 69 percent, nearly 70 percent," Cruz said. "And what we're seeing is--we're seeing Republicans uniting behind our campaign because we're the only campaign" to defeat Trump.

Early Wednesday morning, Ted Cruz earned the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a one-time rival in the Republican presidential race.

Bush's endorsement, Cruz said, was yet another sign that "the entire ideological spectrum" of Republicans has gotten behind his candidacy.

"I'm very grateful to have the support of Gov. Jeb Bush," he said. "And it's really an indication of what we're seeing nationally."

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