Herman Cain Tones Down Rhetoric on Muslims Under Fire

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One way in which Herman Cain has set himself apart from the other Republican 2012 candidates is by being outspoken and uncensored. He's open about his opinion of the other candidates. He's open about saying that Barack Obama was raised in Kenya. And notoriously, when he first entered into the GOP fray, he garnered much attention by saying that he wouldn't appoint Muslims to his cabinet or as a federal judge.

As much as being outspoken aids fringe candidates seeking name recognition, it seems to cause endless trouble as soon as that candidate tries to position themselves as someone to be taken seriously. For example, in the case of Donald Trump, legitimate intentions or not, once he had successfully drawn enough spotlight that the media started to take him to task, he quickly seemed to stop having quite as much fun.

At a press conference following his speech at the RightOnline conference Saturday, it seemed Herman Cain has stopped having as much fun as well. In his own words, he lost his "cool" with a reporter and lambasted supporters of Rep. Ron Paul. Politico described it as a "tense half-hour press conference" and noted that "scrutiny is starting to take its toll on Herman Cain." The major issue he back-pedaled on was his statement about treating applicants for his administration differently if they were Muslim. Cain responded to reporters:

"I am not anti-Muslim. I am anti-terrorist. And so my statement has been misconstrued several times, I've even been called a bigot because I expressed a desire to be cautious if I were to consider a Muslim for my administration. That was the intent..."

"Because I'm thinking from the perspective of what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said when I first heard him two or three months after 9/11/01. Number one, he said, terrorism is going to last a long time, and number two, America's got to learn that they -- the terrorists, the jihadists -- they want to kill all of us."

"So, no, I'm not going to play nicey nice and say that I'm not going to take extra precautions in order to be able that make sure that we can do our job."

But upon further questioning from a reporter from Talking Points Memo about his specific hiring procedures, Cain became frustrated and backtracked.

"If you're trying to make me lose my cool, you are succeeding," Cain said, his voice rising. "I never said I would use any special precautions!"

OK, then, TPM followed up: "So a Muslim applies to be in the administration, he gets in like anybody else?"

"Yes," Cain said.

Cain apologized to the reporter for getting worked up, according to Politico.

“It probably wasn’t politically correct to raise my voice,” he said. “I’m not going to be a punching bag, OK? But you can imagine that I’ve been asked that same question 18,000 times.”

But he appeared similarly worked up over other questions he was asked regarding statements he made in the past. “I’m driving my staff crazy, but I be the candidate, OK?” he said at one point. “There’s a lot of good stuff you can learn on the Internet, and there’s a lot of garbage out there … we won’t allow disinformation to kill this campaign.” He slipped into the third person when describing how he was falsely accused of opposing an audit of the central bank.  And according to Politico, "he acknowledged that his communications director, Ellen Carmichael, didn’t know in advance that he planned to go on such a totally-off-message riff."
"“I want to clear the air, alright... I go right into the belly of the beast if somebody has misrepresented something that I have said," Cain said. In that case, as a political candidate, Cain will be spending a great deal of time in the belly of the beast.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.