While advocacy groups call on Ben Carson to pull out of the race, his spokesperson says his comments have been misunderstood
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson said on Sunday no Muslim should be president of the US, adding a new twist to a controversy roiling the party's White House nominating race.
In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Carson, a retired brain surgeon who often refers to his own deep Christian faith, was asked whether a president's religion should matter.
"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," he said.
Asked whether he believes Islam is consistent with the US constitution, he responded: "No, I don't. I do not."
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," he added.
The Council on Islamic-American Relations said Carson's comments make him unfit to be president and called for him to pull out of the race.
"This disqualifies him from being a president," CAIR director Nihad Awad said. "My advice to GOP presidential candidates: Read the US constitution if you haven't yet! It keeps America great."
A Carson campaign official later suggested Carson's comments were being overstated and that Carson would likely reach out to the Muslim community, NBC reported.
"He did not say that a Muslim should be prevented from running, or barred from running in any way," Carson campaign spokesman Doug Watts was quoted as saying by NBC.
"He (Carson) just doesn't believe the American people are ready for that."
Carson's comments come days after business mogul and fellow Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump drew criticism when he failed to denounce an audience member who said the US should be purged of Muslims and also claimed that Barack Obama was not an American.
"We have training camps growing where they want to kill us - that's my question. When can we get rid of them," the audience member asked.
"We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. And you know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We are going to be looking at that and plenty of other things," Trump responded.