One of the foremost GOP opponents of the proposed Lower Manhattan mosque said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments on the topic were a "threat" to 9/11 families who don't want it built.
"I only see it as a threat by the speaker to intimidate people who are speaking out against the location of the mosque. I can take care of myself, but I'm thinking of the families — the family members ... I mean, these are people whose hearts have been broken by Sept. 11. The wound has now been torn open," Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said in an interview with Fox News. "Are they going to have to face an investigation by Speaker Nancy Pelosi somehow implying that they're part of a conspiracy?"
"There is no question that there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some, and I join those who have called for looking into, how is this opposition into the mosque being funded?" she asked.
The controversy of the construction of an Islamic cultural center, including a mosque, about two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks has ignited a political firestorm, which escalated when President Obama said late last week he supports the right of the group to build the center, citing religious freedom.
Obama later said he was not commenting on the wisdom of building the site in that particular location. King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, in response noted the freedom of speech rights of mosque opponents.
Pelosi has since issued a clarifying statement calling for "transparency" amongst both the proponents and opponents of the Islamic center, mirroring a stance similar to the one held by the Interfaith Alliance. The speaker further pushed for passage of a bill funding healthcare for 9/11 first responders in September, an item that had stalled before lawmakers' August recess.
"You know, the president and others are talking about freedom of religion," he said. "There is also a constitutional right of freedom of speech. And that's what these good people of New York are exercising, freedom of speech."
King said that lawmakers should refrain from making the issue into a "standard political" matter on the campaign trail and called on Democrats and Republicans to speak about it "in a very measured way." He specifically criticized Newt Gingrich's comparison of the mosque builders to Nazis.
The Long Island congressman has called for an investigation into the funding sources for the Islamic center, which is sponsored by a group called the Cordoba Initiative.