Mitt Romney recently said that he would not have any Muslims in his cabinet because their population in the United States isn't large enough. His exact words were: "
based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration." The various idiocies of that statement were previously discussed on MoJoBlog here.
Romney tried to defend himself by saying:
"[The] question was did I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical Jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet," said Romney. "And I said, 'No, I don't think that you have to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to be able to take on radical Jihad anymore than during the Second World War we needed to have a Japanese-American to understand the threat that was coming from Japan or something of that nature.' I just rejected that argument..."
That seems to misrepresent what the questioner asked. The questioner describes his own question thusly: "I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today."
Now the original questioner, an American born Muslim named Mansoor Ijaz (full disclosure: Ijaz is or was an occasional commentator for Fox News, CNN, and other places) is lashing out at Romney's dissembling. Via Huffington Post:
Ijaz scoffed at such an interpretation of what transpired.
"I can tell you," he said, "that Romney's push back, meaning his statement about the Japanese is all bullshit. He never talked about the Japanese at that point. Everything he said today is simply trying to reconfigure this item, which is he doesn't feel there is a need to put people of Islamic faith into his cabinet."
..."This guy is lying now to the American people."
Ijaz also told the National Review: "My question was crystal clear, and so was his answer."
By keeping this alive, Romney is inviting (1) Ijaz to keep speaking out and (2) reporters to keep digging into his record on Muslims. And it isn't pretty stuff.
[Irma Aguirre, former finance director of the Nevada Republican Party] says Romney made the comments three months ago at Lawry's restaurant in Las Vegas, at a different event from the one chronicled in the Monitor op-ed. Aguirre says that she was at the event with local Republican George Harris, who asked Romney the relevant question. She described the exchange this way:
"His question was something to the effect of, 'Considering the problems that we have with the Jihadist movement and the problems we have with the Middle East, would you consider having a Muslim as an adviser that can guide you as to what kind of decisions to make with regards to the Middle East?'"
"He said, 'Probably not.'"
Aguirre added that what Romney said next surprised her. "He said something to the effect of, 'They're radicals. There's no talking to them. There's no negotiating with them.' I can't remember the exact words he used, but that was the explanation. We left thinking, 'Wow, what a racist comment. He automatically assumed that all Muslims are radical.'"
Harris, a self-described registered Republican who's also the state GOP finance chair and who asked Romney the question, confirmed this account in a telephone interview with TPM Election Central.
These could be supporters of a different candidate pushing an agenda—everyone is suspicious this time of year. Whatever the circumstance, Romney would be well-advised to make this go away.