Mayor Bill de Blasio today said Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is “absolutely wrong” to say America should not allow a Muslim person to become president—and compared the rhetoric to that lobbed against former President John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic to occupy the Oval Office.
“This is a problem we’ve faced before, and it’s time to face it down,” Mr. de Blasio told the Observer during a City Hall press conference on the upcoming papal visit. “Mr. Carson is absolutely wrong. He should apologize to Muslim-Americans. Clearly, we have millions of Muslim-Americans who are loyal American citizens, who contribute to our society all the time, who of course are as qualified to serve us as anyone else.”
On NBC’s Meet the Press this weekend, Mr. Carson was asked about the possibility of a Muslim becoming president and responded: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” He went on to say he did not think the Muslim faith was consistent with the United States Constitution—something his campaign then doubled down on later this weekend, with his spokesman saying “there is a huge gulf between the faith and practice of the Muslim faith, and our Constitution and American values.”
Mr. de Blasio said Dr. Carson’s remarks were “pertinent” to the topic of the day at City Hall—the visit of Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic faith, to New York City later this week.
“I come from a Catholic family, and the story that were told in my family of the bias against John F. Kennedy when he ran for president—the overt bias, the overt discussion in this country about whether John Fr. Kennedy would be more loyal to the pope than to the people of the United States—that went on for months and months in 1959, 1960,” Mr. de Blasio said. “And he was decorated war hero.”
Dr. Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon and political outsider, has consistently run toward the top of the polls in what seems to be the year of the outside in the Republican primary field—with real estate magnate Donald Trump hanging on to the top spot for months now and businesswoman Carly Fiorina recently surging after a strong debate performance. Mr. Trump was also been criticized for remarks, or lack thereof, about Muslims—when he did not correct a man at a rally who referred to President Barack Obama as a non-American Muslim and asked when the country could get rid of Muslims.
“I don’t know if Ben Carson was trying to score cheap points with the conservative base,” Mr. de Blasio said, “or if he actually believes that—but if he believes it, he doesn’t understand what America’s about.”
[Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.]