White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called Ben Carson’s comments that a Muslim should not be elected president “entirely inconsistent with the Constitution” on Monday, and criticized Republicans for being willing to “countenance offensive views all in pursuit of political support.”
“What’s particularly disappointing to many observers, including me, is that we haven’t seen a significant outcry from all of the other candidates in the Republican race.
And it’s for the same reason, because they’re chasing for the same votes,” Earnest said during the White House press briefing.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Carson who is a devout Christian, said that the Islamic faith was inconsistent with the Constitution.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Earnest said that Carson’s comments were “entirely inconsistent with the Constitution that does actually guarantee the freedom of religion in this country.”
“Ultimately there will be consequences and certainly those views will be taken into account by voters, both in the primary but also in the general election,” Earnest added.
Carson’s comments also drew a sharp rebuttal from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group.
“We really urge politicians, the general public, community leaders and presidential candidates to repudiate his views and we ask Mr. Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race because he is unfit to lead and because his views are inconsistent with the United States Constitution,” CAIR executive director Nihad Awad, said Monday.
Some of Carson’s rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham have criticized Carson for his comments. For his part, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, said that the Constitution says there should not be a religious test for public office and “I am a constitutionalist.”
The firestorm over Carson’s comments come as the Republican field is grappling with the intersection of religion and politics, spurred by a question from a man at a New Hampshire campaign event.
Many took issue with the fact that Donald Trump did not correct a man who wrongly called President Barack Obama a Muslim and went on to say that Muslims are “a problem in this country.”
Trump, who famously crusaded to get the president to release his birth certificate, has defended his response and said that he wasn’t “morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him.”
Also appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press, Trump said he could forsee a day when a Muslim could be president, but unlike Carson, did not explicitly say that he opposed the idea of a Muslim in the White House.