Earlier this year, GOP presidential hopeful and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain caused a major stir when he told ThinkProgress in Iowa that he would not be comfortable appointing Muslims in his administration if he were elected president.
After our story was published, the Cain campaign began spinning the gaffe immediately. Cain spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael retracted the candidate’s words in a statement to Salon’s Justin Elliot: “Mr. Cain would consider any person for a position based on merit, as anybody else would, as is the law.” Cain himself walked back his earlier refusal to appoint Muslims on Fox News. However, a week later, Cain hedged his retraction, telling the Orlando Sun Sentinel that he would only be willing to appoint a Muslim who disavowed Sharia law, but that “he’s unaware of any Muslim who’d be willing to make such a disavowal.”
Cain put a new spin on his disinclination to appoint Muslims as a guest on Glenn Beck’s radio show last week. The presidential hopeful admitted to saying that he would not be comfortable appointing a Muslim in his cabinet or as a federal judge, but went on to tell Beck that “I did not say that I would not have them in my cabinet”:
I immediately said – without thinking – “No, I would not be comfortable,” I did not say that I would not have them in my cabinet. If you look at my career, I have hired good people regardless of race, religion, sex, gender, orientation and this sort of thing. So the comment was, I wouldn’t be comfortable because I do have a problem with Sharia law. I believe in American laws in American courts. So I was coming at it from the perspective of thinking about Sharia law.
Cain’s word parsing — that he only said he was uncomfortable appointing Muslims, not that he would actually refuse to do so as president — may allow the Georgia Republican to avoid infringing on the Constitution’s prohibition of religious tests. However, his new explanation will do little to reassure Muslim Americans hoping to avoid discrimination in their own country, much less from the White House.
Indeed, in an interview last month, Cain declared that appointing a Muslim in his administration would be “pandering.” He went on to declare that “I don’t pander! And being politically correct, to have one in my administration just so they can stop calling me a bigot, is not something I care about!”