Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson speaks to the crowd at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum Sept. 18, 2015 in Greenville, S.C.
Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty

Carson campaign welcomes anti-Muslim controversy

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson crossed an important line on Sunday when he said on “Meet the Press” that Muslim Americans, regardless of any other consideration, should be disqualified from the presidency. The comments drew swift rebukes yesterday from the White House, each of the leading Democratic candidates, and even many Republicans.
The retired right-wing neurosurgeon, however, doesn’t seem to care. Carson stood by the comment on Sunday night, and reiterated his message last night on his official Facebook page, declaring he “meant exactly what I said.” The GOP contender added, “Those Republicans that take issue with my position are amazing.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations characterized the controversy as significant enough to warrant Carson’s withdrawal from the presidential race.
That’s obviously not going to happen. On the contrary, the Associated Press reported overnight that Team Carson seems delighted by the uproar.
Carson’s campaign reported strong fundraising and more than 100,000 new Facebook friends in the 24 hours after he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
His campaign manager Barry Bennett told The Associated Press on Monday: “While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20.”
“People in Iowa particularly, are like, ‘Yeah! We’re not going to vote for a Muslim either,’” Bennett said. “I don’t mind the hubbub. It’s not hurting us, that’s for sure.”
And that’s arguably every bit as striking as Carson’s original sentiment.
To hear the candidate’s campaign manager tell it, there’s nothing wrong with brazen bigotry towards an American religious minority, just so long as the Republican Party’s right-wing base shares that bigotry.
It’s an unsettling standard for propriety and decency. As the argument goes, intolerance is acceptable among candidates for national office – even if the prejudice targets a group of Americans – if intolerant voters agree.