Fox News rushed to aid Ben Carson in spinning his controversial comments that a Muslim should not be president after the Republican presidential candidate came under widespread scrutiny for his remarks, claiming he was really talking about supposed adherents of Sharia law and not all American Muslims.
Ben Carson Faces Backlash After Saying He “Absolutely Would Not Agree With” A Muslim Being Elected President
Ben Carson: “I Would Not Advocate That We Put A Muslim In Charge Of This Nation.” On the September 20 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said that he believed Islam was not “consistent” with the U.S. Constitution and that he “absolutely would not agree with” an American Muslim being elected president:
CHUCK TODD: Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what's been going on. Donald Trump had to deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way -- should a president's faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?
BEN CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.
TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?
CARSON: No I don't - I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that. [NBC, Meet the Press, 9/20/15]
Carson's Comments Spark Widespread, Bipartisan Backlash. Following Carson's statements on Meet the Press, "[c]andidates and religious groups from across the political and ideological spectrum" condemned the candidate for his opposition to a Muslim being elected president, including Republican rivals Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. As Politico reported:
Candidates and religious groups from across the political and ideological spectrum moved Monday to condemn remarks from Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson, who said over the weekend that the president of the United States should not be a Muslim.
Responding to his comments, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz noted in an Iowa television interview on Sunday that the Constitution, specifically Article VI, “specifies there shall be no religious test for public office and I am a constitutionalist.” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham called on Carson to apologize, telling Reuters that the remarks were particularly offensive to Muslim members of the military.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Carson to withdraw from the race on Monday for his “unconstitutional and un-American statements.”
“Mr. Carson clearly does not understand or care about the Constitution, which clearly states that 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,'” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement. “We call on our nation's political leaders - across the political spectrum - to repudiate these unconstitutional and un-American statements and for Mr. Carson to withdraw from the presidential race.”
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, also denounced the remarks as “deeply offensive, un-American and contrary to the Constitution.”
“There is no religious litmus test for candidates seeking political office, and that includes the highest office in the land,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL's national director, said in a statement. [Politico, 9/21/15]
Fox News Runs Defense For Carson By Helping Him Spin His Comments
Sean Hannity: “What You Meant To Say” Was That You Wouldn't Support Electing A “Radical Islamist.” On the September 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity provided cover for Ben Carson's controversial comments by aiding the candidate in reframing his statements. Asking Carson to specifically clarify if “what [he] meant to say” when he said Muslims shouldn't be elected president was that he wouldn't support a “radical Islamist,” Hannity declared that “what I hear in your statement there is you kind of are tempering those remarks” and “would be open to” a Muslim running for president who rejected Sharia law:
SEAN HANNITY: I spoke with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser today, he's a moderate Muslim, and I asked if he could name a single Muslim country that treats women the way we treat women, or minorities the way we treat minorities in this country. He couldn't name a single one. Was that what you were thinking in your mind when you were answering the question, in other words, the way Muslim theocracies currently operate?
BEN CARSON: That's correct. I mean, they currently do not tend to operate the same way that our system does. Now, if someone has a Muslim background and they're willing to reject those tenets and to accept the way of life that we have, and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion, then, of course, they will be considered infidels and heretics, but at least I would then be quite willing to support them.
HANNITY: All right, so what I hear in your statement there is you kind of are tempering those remarks. For example, if there was a moderate Muslim that denounced Sharia, that denounced radical Islamists, that denounced quotes in the Koran about killing the infidels or not taking Christians and Jews for your friends, that denounced the controversial life of Mohammed, you would be open to that Muslim running for president?
CARSON: Of course.
HANNITY: OK. But, well, then so basically the controversy is over in that sense. Did you mean to say radical Islamist or one that supports a form of government as is practiced in Muslim countries, is that more what you meant to say?
CARSON: Well, you know, that was implied in the comment, because I prefaced that by saying I don't care what religion or faith someone belongs to if they're willing to subjugate that to the American way and to our Constitution, then I have no problem with it. That's what I said before that. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/21/15]
Steve Doocy: Sharia Law “Probably, Is Part Of What Dr. Ben Carson Was Talking About” When He Said A Muslim Shouldn't Be President. On the September 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy spun Carson's comments by suggesting that the candidate was actually talking about Muslims who adhere to Sharia law, not all Muslims:
STEVE DOOCY: Keep in mind, if you are a Muslim and if you adhere to Sharia law, under Sharia law, gay people must be killed, women must be subservient, and people from other religions must be killed. OK, so that, probably, is part of what Dr. Ben Carson was talking about originally with that hypothetical question from Chuck Todd. [Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends, 9/22/15]
Martha MacCallum: Carson Was Actually Talking About Sharia Law, And It's “Unbelievable” That His Comments Are Considered “Controversial.” During the September 22 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum claimed that “when you look at it in very basic terms” what Carson was actually discussing was not electing “anyone who believe in Sharia Law” - not that no Muslim should be elected president:
MARTHA MACCALUM: You know, when you look at it in very basic terms like that, that's what he was talking about. He said, you know anyone who believes in Sharia law, which you know, by the virtue of what it is, says that it's, you know, a theocracy, that it would be the premier law of the land, should not president of the United States. The fact that is a controversial statement in and of itself is pretty unbelievable. But now he's explaining. You know, he's like, 'I don't know if you people understand English, but here is what I meant.' [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/22/15]
Ainsley Earhardt: “I Think Everyone Would Agree” With Carson That Followers Of Sharia Law Should Not Be Elected President. On the September 22 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that Carson actually said he “wants to reject any president of the United States who would agree with Sharia law,” and surmised that “everyone would agree” with such a refusal. Earhardt agreed with guest Fran Tarkenton that Carson's comments are do not merit attention because “there is not even a Muslim running for office”:
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Yeah, I agree with you, and when he says that he wants to reject any President of the United States who would agree with Sharia law, I mean, who -- I would -- I think everyone would agree with him on that.
It's a non-starter. There is not even a Muslim running for office, so let's focus on some other issues here. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 9/22/15]