CNN Absurdly Suggests Ben Carson Wants to Violate Constitution on Muslim President

As CNN hosts spent much of Monday obsessing over GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson's assertion that he would not support electing a Muslim President, various hosts and guests repeatedly and absurdly claimed that he was advocating a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Shortly after 6:00 a.m., the flaky analysis kicked off on CNN's New Day. Even though Dr. Carson made no implication that he would want to change the law to bar Muslims from serving as President, but merely expressed a personal opinion about whom he would be willing to support, host Alisyn Camerota and CNN commentator Errol Louis suggested that Dr. Carson's words contradicted the Constitution:

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's completely wrong. You know, people should go Google Article VI of the United States Constitution-

ALISYN CAMEROTA: Which says there's no religious test whatsoever for any public office.

LOUIS: -for any public office, for any public office.

The CNN commentator then asserted that Carson's statement was "completely contrary to the Constitution." Louis:

There are certain rules you can break, but there are certain rules you can't break. One of them is the Constitution. So when Donald Trump says, "The Fourteenth Amendment, you know, maybe it's just wrong," or Ben Carson makes this outrageous comment which is, you know, completely contrary to the Constitution, I think they'll find that there are people who really sort of look at that and say, "Look, there are some rules you really don't break, and if you're willing to do that, maybe you're not the kind of person that should be leading this country."

Louis soon repeated his claim that it "contradicts the Constitution" as he saw "bias and bigotry" in Dr. Carson's comments:

And it becomes a legitimate, I would argue, required question for journalists to ask: "You said something that directly contradicts the Constitution. You said something that is, any way you look at it, about bias and bigotry. Please explain what you meant by that."

A bit later, as co-host Camerota spoke with Carson business manager Armstrong Williams, she asserted that Dr. Carson's "belief system violates that part of the Constitution." Camerota:

Armstrong, let me read to you Article VI of the Constitution, which says that anyone of any religion can serve in public office. Here it is: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Dr. Carson's belief system violates that part of the Constitution.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m., CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello related the dubious assertion by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that Dr. Carson's "remarks violate the Constitution." Costello:

Today the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- or CAIR -- is calling for Ben Carson to withdraw because Carson's remarks violate the Constitution -- namely Article VI, which says. It "forbids a religious test as a requirement for holding a government position."

Moments later, appearing as a guest, CAIR's Ibrahim Hooper complained that Dr. Carson "would violate the Constitution to take away our rights." Hooper:

Well, it's interesting that an individual who is trashing the Constitution is accusing Americans of somehow not following the Constitution. Muslim-Americans support the Constitution every day and seek its protections from individuals like Mr. Carson who would violate the Constitution to take away our rights.

During the 10:00 a.m. hour, when Republican strategist Kayleigh McEnany disputed Hooper's premise about Dr. Carson wanting a "violation" of the Constitution, CNN's Costello defended the CAIR official's assertion:

KAYLEIGH McENANY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The CAIR representative earlier, I just want to point out, completely told a falsehood. He said Ben Carson is advocating for a violation of Article VI calling for a religious test is he wants to be President. That's simply untrue. Ben Carson didn't say that. Ben Carson said he would never advocate for a Muslim President-

CAROL COSTELLO: He said, he said-

McENANY: -if they professed sharia law.

COSTELLO: -he would not want a Muslim serving as President of the United States. Rebecca, isn't that what you heard?

After Rebecca Berg of Realclearpolitics complained that Dr. Carson was being "inconsistent," Costello brought up the Constitution again, as if she were disproving McEnany's complaints about CAIR:

COSTELLO: And just to be clear about the Constitution and what it says, is Article VI. It forbids a religious test as a requirement for holding a government position. That's what the Constitution says. So no religion should be taken into account, Kayleigh, when it comes to electing a President.

McENANY: But not wanting a President that professes this faith is different than requiring a religious test. It's not a violation of the Constitution. It's simply Ben Carson's preference. Those are very different things.

Shortly after 11:00 a.m., as he spoke with CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, anchor John Berman seemed befuddled as he wondered if Dr. Carson wanted a "constitutional ban" on a Muslim serving as President. Berman:

It's interesting, Nia, because Carson's people, Armstrong Williams who we're going to have on in a little bit, and also his campaign manager, put out a statement saying, what he was saying was he would not advocate for a Muslim in the White House, he would not vote for a Muslim. And in this statement, it says, for the record, he would not advocate for the election of a Democrat either.

I just wonder if this is splitting hairs. Is this a distinction without a difference right there? Saying he could never vote for a Muslim, but at the same time saying that he is not opposed to -- I don't even know what the distinction is there. There should be a constitutional ban on it?

At about 12;21 pm., CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield used the words "extreme right conservatives" to refer to those who support a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution as she asserted that it was "strange" that Dr. Carson would make such a comment as she claimed that there was a constitutional conflict:

What's strange about this, apart from the issue of, you know, castigating anyone for their religion running for high office, what's strange about it is typically extreme right conservatives are strict constructionists. They don't mess with the Constitution. And, in fact, when asked, Dr. Carson, when Chuck Todd asked him, "So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?" he said, "No, I do not, I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." It's sort of ironic. The whole thing doesn't make sense because the Constitution says you have to.

Guest Haroon Moghul of Religion Dispatches then chimed in:

Yeah, they're playing a game unfortunately. That's what this is. I mean, by his own logic, Ben Carson should be disqualified from the office of President because he's introducing a religious -- he is doing what he claims Muslims are allegedly doing.

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of CNN shows from Monday, September 21:

New Day:
6:08 a.m.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Errol, just to remind people of what Ben Carson said, I'll just read it to you. He said, quote, "I would absolutely not agree with having a Muslim President," and does not think Islam is consistent with the Constitution. What's he talking about?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's completely wrong. You know, people should go Google Article VI of the United States Constitution-

CAMEROTA: Which says there's no religious test whatsoever for any public office.

LOUIS: -for any public office, for any public office. And what I think Ben Carson is going to discover and Donald Trump maybe to a lesser extent, because they are not politicians, they've made sort of their brand to be, "Oh, I go against the rules. I'm not a conventional politician." There are certain rules you can break, but there are certain rules you can't break. One of them is the Constitution.

So when Donald Trump says, "The Fourteenth Amendment, you know, maybe it's just wrong," or Ben Carson makes this outrageous comment which is, you know, completely contrary to the Constitution, I think they'll find that there are people who really sort of look at that and say, "Look, there are some rules you really don't break, and if you're willing to do that, maybe you're not the kind of person that should be leading this country."

(...)

CHRIS CUOMO: We're being delicate a little bit about how we're doing it. We're being forensic about it, you know, it plays to the base, you know, there is a line of decency, you know, everybody wants to make you a little afraid of a situation when they want to be the one you ask to change it. But, to say that Muslims shouldn't be in charge of the country, I can't think of anything as inflammatory on that level from a man who wants to be respected as a man of faith: "Leave faith alone, let's not talk about," you know, how do you justify this?

LOUIS: For many people it is going to be a disqualifier. I mean, and what happens is, yes, they get their base riled up and so forth, but then there becomes just kind of an absolute sort of ceiling, an absolute limit. And it becomes a legitimate, I would argue, required question for journalists to ask: "You said something that directly contradicts the Constitution. You said something that is, any way you look at it, about bias and bigotry. Please explain what you meant by that."

CUOMO: Oh, he'll run around that, though. Errol. He'll say, "No, no, no, I'm not saying they should be automatically disqualified. I know what Article VI says. I have it hanging on my wall. But it's that I wouldn't support them. I think that their faith is inconsistent. That's just my opinion. I'm not saying disqualify them. I'm just saying that they're inherently vicious."

LOUIS: Well, right, and, see, if he says that enough times, I think you'll find a surprising number of people, even among very conservative Republicans, will say, "You know what, that's a step too far. That's just not somebody who can run this country." And I think the numbers will start to reflect that. So, you know, it will work with the base, but it puts, I think, an absolute sharp limit on how far he can expand it.

(...)

6:25 a.m.

ALISYN CAMEROTA: Armstrong, let me read to you Article VI of the Constitution, which says that anyone of any religion can serve in public office. Here it is: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Dr. Carson's belief system violates that part of the Constitution.

 

CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello:
9:06 a.m.

CAROL COSTELLO: Today the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- or CAIR -- is calling for Ben Carson to withdraw because Carson's remarks violate the Constitution -- namely Article VI, which says. It "forbids a religious test as a requirement for holding a government position." ... What would you like to say to Ben Carson?

IBRAHIM HOOPER, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS: Well, it's interesting that an individual who is trashing the Constitution is accusing Americans of somehow not following the Constitution. Muslim-Americans support the Constitution every day and seek its protections from individuals like Mr. Carson who would violate the Constitution to take away our rights. ... You can make all these bizarre comparisons, but that doesn't avoid the fact that Mr. Carson is rejecting the Constitution when says, "Put a religious test for public office," and then accuses Muslims of not following the Constitution. It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.

10:18 a.m.

KAYLEIGH McENANY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The CAIR representative earlier, I just want to point out, completely told a falsehood. He said Ben Carson is advocating for a violation of Article VI calling for a religious test is he wants to be President. That's simply untrue. Ben Carson didn't say that. Ben Carson said he would never advocate for a Muslim President-

CAROL COSTELLO: He said, he said-

McENANY: -if they professed sharia law.

COSTELLO: -he would not want a Muslim serving as President of the United States. Rebecca, isn't that what you heard?

REBECCA BERG, REALCLEARPOLITICS: That's what I heard. Absolutely. And it's very interesting because Ben Carson, over the course of his campaign, as established himself as a very religious candidate. He appeals very strongly to evangelical Christian voters. But, at the same time, he has said and he has been very careful to say that, if he were elected President, he would not let his religion necessarily interfere with the laws of this country. And so, to think and to say that a Muslim would not do the same if they were elected President seems inconsistent, at the very least.

COSTELLO: And just to be clear about the Constitution and what it says, is Article VI. It forbids a religious test as a requirement for holding a government position. That's what the Constitution says. So no religion should be taken into account, Kayleigh, when it comes to electing a President.

McENANY: But not wanting a President that professes this faith is different than requiring a religious test. It's not a violation of the Constitution. It's simply Ben Carson's preference. Those are very different things.

 

At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan:
11:03 a.m.

JOHN BERMAN: It's interesting, Nia, because Carson's people, Armstrong Williams who we're going to have on in a little bit, and also his campaign manager, put out a statement saying, what he was saying was he would not advocate for a Muslim in the White House, he would not vote for a Muslim. And in this statement, it says, for the record, he would not advocate for the election of a Democrat either. I just wonder if this is splitting hairs, is this a distinction without a difference right there? Saying he could never vote for a Muslim, but at the same time saying that he is not opposed to -- I don't even know what the distinction is there. There should be a constitutional ban on it?

 

Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield:
12:21 p.m.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: What's strange about this, apart from the issue of, you know, castigating anyone for their religion running for high office, what's strange about it is typically extreme right conservatives are strict constructionists. They don't mess with the Constitution. And, in fact, when asked, Dr. Carson, when Chuck Todd asked him, "So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?" he said, "No, I do not, I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." It's sort of ironic. The whole thing doesn't make sense because the Constitution says you have to.

HAROON MOGHUL, RELIGION DISPATCHES: Yeah, they're playing a game unfortunately. That's what this is. I mean, by his own logic, Ben Carson should be disqualified from the office of President because he's introducing a religious -- he is doing what he claims Muslims are allegedly doing. 

2016 Presidential CAIR Conservatives & Republicans Religion Islam CNN New Day CNN Newsroom Carol Costello Alisyn Camerota John Berman Ashleigh Banfield Ben Carson


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