Democrat Doug Jones made history Tuesday with his stunning upset over Republican Roy Moore in the Senate election in Alabama, but one of the most memorable moments of the day came during several seconds of dead air on CNN.
As voting was winding down, Moore spokesman Ted Crockett appeared on CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper. In a tense 10-minute interview, the host pressed Crockett to explain some of Moore’s reactionary views, including his belief that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress.
“Why?” Tapper asked. “Under what provision of the Constitution?”
“Because you have to swear on the Bible,” Crockett responded. “You have to swear on a Bible to be an elected official in the United States of America. He alleges that a Muslim cannot do that, ethically, swearing on the Bible.”
Crockett appeared to be referencing a commentary Moore wrote in 2006 in which he argued “Islamic law is simply incompatible with our law” and urged Congress to bar Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who was elected that year, from taking the congressional oath of office.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, took a ceremonial oath with a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
Tapper noted that nothing in the Constitution nor any law requires elected officials to be sworn in on a Bible. Article VI of the Constitution explicitly prohibits a religious test for public office.
Newly elected members of Congress typically take the oath together on the first day of a new session, and religious texts are not a formal part of the mass swearing-in.
“You don’t actually have to swear on a Christian Bible. You can swear on anything, really,” Tapper told Crockett. “I don’t know if you knew that.”
“Oh no,” said Crockett, a former county official in Alabama. “I swore on the Bible. I’ve done it three times.”
Tapper corrected him again: “I’m sure you have. I’m sure you’ve picked up a Bible, but the law is not that you have to swear on a Christian Bible. That is not the law.”
Crockett seemed dumbfounded by what the host said. For more than five seconds he sat speechless, mouth agape. “You don’t know that?” Tapper asked.
Tapper was just about to end the segment when Crockett chimed back in: “I don’t know. I know that Donald Trump did it when we made him president.”
“Because he’s a Christian and he picked it,” the host said, then signed off.
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