PAWLEYS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on Friday for a boycott of Apple products until it agrees to help the U.S. government unlock the cellphone of one of the killers in last year’s shooting in San Bernardino, California.
“Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information,” Trump said at a campaign event in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. “It just occurred to me.”
Trump, front-runner for the Republican nomination in the Nov. 8 presidential election, made the off-the-cuff comment at a town hall-style event at a country club a day before the state’s nominating contest.
As he was speaking, Trump’s campaign issued a tweet from an iPhone using his Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump. Trump later tweeted that he uses both an iPhone and a Samsung device.
In response, senior Apple executives told reporters they felt they were in good company, given the other groups and people Trump has criticized in the past. They defended encryption as a way to protect Apple customers’ rights.
It was not the first attack on the technology company by the real estate mogul and reality TV personality. Trump has previously been critical of Apple for not producing enough of its products in the United States.
“We’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” Trump said in a January speech at Liberty University in Virginia.
Apple is resisting U.S. government demands that it unlock an iPhone used by Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others at a holiday party in San Bernardino last December.
Trump made his comments as the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion seeking to force Apple to comply with a judge’s order for the company to unlock the phone, portraying the tech company’s refusal as a “marketing strategy.”
The filing increased tension in a showdown between the Obama administration and Silicon Valley over security and privacy. The government has said the couple were sympathizers of Islamic State militants and wants to open the phone to find out more about possible connections and contacts.
“If Apple doesn’t give the information to the authorities on the radical Islamic terrorists, I’ll only be using a Samsung- until such time as they give the information,” Trump tweeted. “Hopefully others will follow suit. Our country needs and should demand security. It is time to get tough and be smart!”
It was not the first time Trump has called for a boycott. In November, he lobbied for a Starbucks boycott because the coffee chain’s red holiday cups lacked Christmas-related decorations.
He has repeatedly urged people not to shop at Macy’s after the department store dropped his signature business clothing line because of comments he made about Mexicans.