In the midst of Trumpmania, Ben Carson had been one of the quietest candidates of the 2016 field: surging in the polls among the outsider-loving Republican electorate but making few, if any, waves after an early bout of outrageous statements. Not anymore.
In a weekend Meet the Press spot, the former neurosurgeon told host Chuck Todd that he doesn’t believe a Muslim person should be elected president of the United States. Now, the rest of the 2016 field is weighing in on his statements.
Carson’s comment came after Todd asked him how much a presidential candidate’s faith should matter to voters. Todd’s question was a response to a Donald Trump supporter’s claims at a town hall last week that President Obama is a Muslim and that Muslims are a “problem” in the United States. Carson responded that a candidate’s religion should matter if it’s “inconsistent” with American values and the Constitution. Asked if Islam jives with the Constitution, Carson—in his typical monotone—said no.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he said matter of factly. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
In the hours after the interview, the Carson campaign didn't back down from his comments. Spokesman Doug Watts said Sunday night that there’s “pretty strong evidence” for a “huge gulf” between American principles and those of Islam. But on Monday night, Carson told Sean Hannity that he'd back a Muslim candidate who'd be willing to "accept the way of life that we have and clearly will swear to place the Constitution above their religion" and "reject the tenets" of his or her faith.