Ahead of Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, Dr. Ben Carson called for the State Department to “fully investigate” the Council of America-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and a supporter of terrorism.”
Carson listed the investigation in his “Seven Steps for a Safer America.” Among the steps, Carson also called for Congress to formally declare war on ISIS, the United States to lead a regional coalition against the group, and for moderate Arab nations to establish a “refugee Safe zone” in Syria.
Asked to explain the new position against a group the campaign says it has reached out to in the past, Communications Director Doug Watts said CAIR supports Hamas in public comments, refused to condemn Osama Bin Laden immediately after the 9/11 attacks, and has made “proclamations of desire to turn the US into a country that is governed by Sharia law.”
“CAIR is listed by both Egypt and UAE on their terrorist watch lists,” Watts told NBC News. “Dr. Carson is calling for an investigation, and in America’s present circumstances with the jihadists’ threats, we see an investigation of CAIR as prudent and necessary.”
A spokesperson from CAIR, a national organization that advocates for Muslim civil liberties, dismissed Carson’s call as a play for attention.
“Ben Carson is a failing candidate grasping at straws and seeking payback for CAIR’s previous criticism of his anti-Muslim bigotry,” Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper to NBC News in statement. “He found that Islamophobia gave him a boost in the past, so he is trying it again.”
Carson has come under fire for past comments about Muslims. On NBC’s Meet the Press earlier this year, Carson said he would not advocate for “that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” He later said that he could support a Muslim for president if he or she “renounced the central (tenet) of Islam: Sharia Law.”
Since a quick rise to top of several early primary state and national polls, Dr. Carson has lost significant support as the Republican presidential debate shifts to a national security and foreign policy focus. A recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll shows Carson dropping fourth place with 12 percent. The same poll had him at 22 percent in November.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com