King and Berntsen Overlap on Mosque Opposition

568989232 5 King and Berntsen Overlap on Mosque OppositionOn a conference call this morning, Congressman Peter King and Senate hopeful Gary Berntsen voiced their concerns about the Cordoba Mosque that’s planned for 45-47 Park Place, near Ground Zero.

But it was tough to tell if the two were on precisely the same page.

Mr. Berntsen, a former CIA agent who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, said he was concerned that Al-Qaeda and other groups would infiltrate a proposed mosque at the site.

“I think it would be foolish to not recognize that this mosque at Ground Zero will be a magnet for militants that they will attempt to use this, and establish themselves literally feet away from what is hallowed ground in New York City,” Berntsen said.

“It comes down to symbolism. They understand that. That’s what they’ll be targeting,” he said. Pressed to say where exactly might be a more safe location for a mosque, Berntsen conceded that a “reasonable thing would be maybe a block or two away.”

Congressman King defined his objection a little more narrowly.

In his introductory remarks, King said: “In my case, what I’m calling for is an investigation of the funding and an inquiry into the exact background of the Imam, who seems to say one thing on one occasion and something else on another occasion.”

And later, near the end of the 20-minute call, he said again: “I’m confining my remarks to the investigation of the funding and the Imam, and I believe that’s owed to the family members, and in fact all the people in New York who lost so many friends on September 11.”

Republican politicians have tried to make a wedge issue of the potential mosque. Gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio spoke before the landmarks commission yesterday to oppose the mosque, as did Berntsen’s challenger for the Republican nomination, Jay Townsend.