Amid a giant uproar over his comments on "Meet the Press" that he would be uncomfortable with a Muslim being elected president, Ben Carson is trying to recast what he said by using that most-convenient of scapegoats: the media.
TODD: Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what's been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way: Should a president's faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.CHUCK TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?DR. BEN CARSON: No, I don't, I do not.CHUCK TODD: So you--DR. BEN CARSON: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
Nowhere in that back and forth does Carson stipulate that he is talking about a certain radicalized strain within Islam. There's not even a hint of that sort of careful parsing of terms and words in what Carson says. I also checked with John Reiss, the executive producer of "Meet," and that part of the Carson interview was not edited in any way. Reiss also sent me the full, unedited transcript from the Carson interview; what ran on Sunday's show was word-for-word what Carson told Todd during the taped interview.
So, Carson said what he said. (And, it appears to have won him plaudits from many on the right.) His blaming of the media is smart -- he'll get a double bounce from people who agree with him on a Muslim being president and from those who hate the media.
But, it's just not accurate.
It's also not the first time Carson has used the media as a crutch to explain impolitic or controversial statements. In the wake of his comments this spring about how prison can turn people gay, Carson did an interview with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity in which he echoed the "I am being taken out of context" argument.
"It was a 25-minute interview they chopped, and you see what part they emphasized,” Carson told Hannity of the CNN interview. “I did learn something very important: For certain networks, never do a pre-taped interview. Always do it live. ... I simply have decided I’m not really going to talk about that issue anymore, because every time I’m gaining momentum, the liberal press says, ‘Let’s talk about gay rights.’ And I’m just not going to fall for that anymore.”
He later apologized for that comment.
When Carson says he is being misquoted or taken out of context, what he really seems to mean is that the words he used didn't convey the fullness of what he meant. Like, he meant to condemn Sharia law and radical Islam in that interview with Todd. But Todd isn't a mind-reader and shouldn't be. Carson's argument -- 'Trust me, that's what I meant even if it's not what I said' -- is a tough one to swallow without any further proof of his intent.
Running for president is hard -- especially if you, like Carson, have never run for any office before. You make mistakes; you say one thing and mean another. But, to refuse to acknowledge those mistakes -- or at least try to deflect blame before acknowledging them -- is the sort of stuff that hurts the political process in the long run.
Own up to what you say and/or what you believe. If you make a mistake, say it and explain what you really meant. Looking around for someone to blame is the stuff my six-year old does -- and what I scold him for.