Republican presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain met with Muslim leaders Wednesday in Sterling, Va. and apologized for past comments that he would not appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet should he win the presidency.

While I stand by my opposition to the interference of Shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim-Americans and their friends, Cain said in a statement after the meeting. I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully.

Cain had taken criticism for remarks that Muslims seek to impose Sharia law on Americans. He said in March that he would not appoint any Muslims to his administration, slightly walked back that statement a few weeks later, but shortly afterward said he would only appoint Muslims who renounced Sharia law — and he did not know of any Muslims who would do so.

The candidate is popular with some in the Tea Party movement but has been unable to break into the first tier of the field, and consistently sits in the low single digits in polls. Some within his campaign have long worried his statements on Muslims were a distraction.