Ben Carson is taking the edge off his controversial remarks that a Muslim should not be president, blunting his rhetoric to indicate that he would be comfortable with a moderate Muslim in the White House.
“If someone has a Muslim background, and they’re willing to reject those tenets [of Sharia law] and to accept the way of life we have, and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion," the 2016 hopeful said in a Monday night interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel, "then I would then be quite willing to support them.”
Carson has been dealing with severe blowback from Democrats, Muslim activist groups and even some of his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination, for saying in an interview on “Meet the Press” that he does not believe Islam is consistent with the Constitution and that he could not “advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
In a follow-up interview with The Hill, Carson stood by his remarks, adding that whoever takes the White House should be “sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Quran.”
“I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country,” Carson said, referencing the Islamic law derived from the Quran and traditions of Islam. “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
Those close to Carson on Monday indicated that he had no intention of backing down on the issue.
The former neurosurgeon's new message, which he took on the campaign trail Tuesday, is more nuanced and open to a Muslim serving in the White House.
He told reporters at a rally in Ohio that he doesn’t care what “a person’s religious beliefs are or what their religious heritage is.”
“If they embrace American culture, if they embrace our Constitution and are willing to place that above their religious beliefs, I have no problem with it,” Carson said, according to The Washington Post.
However, in the interview with The Hill, Carson mentioned the practice of taqiyya on several occasions, a practice in Sharia Islam that allows a Muslim to mislead nonbelievers about their faith to avoid persecution.
“Taqiyya is a component of Sharia that allows, and even encourages, you to lie to achieve your goals,” Carson said.
But on Tuesday he said that his remarks about not wanting a Muslim in the White House extend to zealots of every religion.
“If you’re a Christian and you’re running for president and you want to make this into a theocracy, I’m not going to support you. I’m not going to advocate you being the president,” he said, according to The Washington Post.
That’s a point Carson said he tried to make on “Meet the Press.” The first question Carson fielded in that interview was whether a person’s faith should matter to voters.
“It depends on what that faith is,” Carson responded. “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.”
On Tuesday, Carson accused the media of intentionally overlooking that aspect of the interview to instead focus on his controversial remarks about Islam.
“It’s on the record on NBC. On 'Meet the Press.' Did anyone pick up on that? Of course not, because that wasn’t the juicy story,” Carson said.
“If the question had been asked about a Christian and they had said, you know, would you support a Christian who believes in establishing a theocracy, I would have said no,” Carson said, according to The Washington Post.