Trump and Rubio chide Apple over order on San Bernardino shooter's phone
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

U.S. Republican presidential candidates criticized Apple Inc on Wednesday for opposing a government request for help hacking into an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers, saying national security is more important than fears about invasion of privacy.

The company late on Tuesday said it was opposing a court order to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation break into an iPhone that belonged to the male shooter, Rizwan Farook, before the deadly Dec. 2 attacks in San Bernardino, California. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the demand threatened the security of Apple's customers.

Donald Trump, a real estate mogul and a leading candidate for his party's nomination for president, said on Wednesday that the resistance stems from "ridiculous hysteria ... about privacy and the government."

"It's ridiculous that the government has to be put in a position where if they have information about a possible attack, we waste a second because that could be the second that kills somebody," he said in an interview on Fox News.

"The reality is time is of the essence when you're talking about the possibility of a terrorist attack," Trump said.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another candidate seeking the Republican party's nomination ahead of the Nov. 8 election, called it a “tough issue” that would require government to work closely with the tech industry to find a solution.

At a campaign stop in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Rubio said he hoped Apple would voluntarily comply with the court order.

"Ultimately, I think being a good corporate citizen is important," he said.

(Reporting by Megan Cassella and Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)