Clarifying his earlier claim that Muslims do not belong in government, Herman Cain said in the New Hampshire Republican debate Monday night that he only meant the bad ones.
“You have peaceful Muslims, then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us,” Cain said. “I was thinking about the ones that were trying to kill us.”
Cain raised eyebrows in March when he said he would not appoint Muslims to his hypothetical White House cabinet out of fears they would “gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.” He said he still would grill any potential Muslim candidates on whether they were properly pro-American.
“I would ask certain questions …” he said. “It’s not a litmus test. It’s making sure we have people committed to the constitution first in order for them to work effectively in the administration.”
His words drew a pointed rebuttal from Romney, who bluntly said the threat from “Sharia law” that Cain and other GOP candidates have played up is exaggerated. He added that he would freely appoint Americans of any religion.
“First of all, of course, we’re not going to have Sharia law,” Romney said. “That’s not going to happen. We have a constitution and we follow the law. No, I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country, our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the early patriots came to this country and we treat people with respect…with their religious persuasion.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.