LOS ANGELES —
Republican front-runner Donald Trump said he's been “a little bit divisive” in the 2016 presidential race and wants to see his party come together.
In an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show Wednesday, the billionaire businessman looked relaxed as Kimmel queried him about campaign issues.
Trump, who has argued for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States, said he's gotten calls of thanks from friends who are Muslim.
“Those may have been crank calls,” Kimmel replied, smiling.
The appearance came a day after Trump clashed with rival Jeb Bush in a Republican debate, with the son and brother of former presidents calling the real estate mogul a “chaos candidate.”
With his surprise surge to the top of the polls, Trump has sidelined establishment candidates like Bush in the race for the Republican nomination, dismaying some party leaders who fear the reality TV star would be unelectable in the November general election. The Republican nominee is likely to face Hillary Clinton, the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination. Primary voting begins in February.
The ABC host then turned to immigration, using the example of his on-air sidekick, Guillermo Rodriguez, to question Trump's call for mass deportation.
Kimmel said Rodriguez came to the United States illegally from Mexico but went through the legalization process. He suggested to Trump that people who are willing to risk everything to get to the United States are good for the country.
Trump was unfazed, calling Hispanics “unbelievable people” but not backtracking on his position. He called for a Mexico-U.S. border wall with “a big beautiful door” for legal entry.
Change of tone
Kimmel said it appeared Trump had made an effort to be nicer to his fellow candidates in the debate, including lauding Senator Ted Cruz's temperament after previously calling him a something of a “maniac.”
“I would like to see the Republican party come together, and I've been a little bit divisive in the sense of hitting people hard,” Trump replied.
That didn't stop him from repeating his characterization of Jeb Bush as low-energy, although he added he was a “nice person.”
Bush, well behind front-runner Trump in national polls, said during the debate that the billionaire couldn't insult his way to the presidency and called him a “chaos candidate.”
Kimmel ended the interview by sharing a mock children's book, in the style of Dr. Seuss, which he said he'd ghost-written for Trump.
“Here are some frogs I do not like at all. We must kick these frogs out and then build a wall,” Kimmel read from one page.
Trump had canceled a previously scheduled appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” but Kimmel didn't make an issue of being stood up.