Senior Republican strategist Karl Rove says he opposes the planned construction of a mosque near the site of the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda terrorist attack in lower Manhattan.
He tells George Stephanopoulos on ABC News, “I don’t want the mosque to be built there.”
Rove is considered the architect of former President George W. Bush’s outreach strategy for working with Muslims.
Rove’s August 18 comment shows the sharp differences among top Republican strategists about the mosque, placing him at odds with longtime ally Grover Norquist, who argues that GOP opposition to the mosque near the mass murder site would undermine the party among religious conservatives.
Norquist’s position as a major conservative coalition-building strategist in Washington gives his views a lot of weight, and liberal outlets like Slate were quick to pick up on his criticism of other conservatives. Norquist’s Palestinian Muslim wife, Samah, signed a letter to “Republican colleagues” in support of the mosque, which the New York Times reprinted in full online.
In his Stephanopoulos interview, Rove acknowledged concern that overheated rhetoric could complicate U.S. efforts to build bridges with Muslims around the world, but said he is more worried about what President Barack Obama is communicating by waffling on the issue. “He [Obama] did real damage to America’s standing in the world by this inconsistent and incoherent answer that he gave on Friday night with a different answer on Saturday morning,” according to Rove.
“The president was better to have signaled a tone of respect for Islam on Friday night without engaging in a controversy, a local controversy that he previously avoided,” Rove argued.
Asked specifically about whether or not he favors the mosque being constructed near the site of the terrorist attack, Rove directly disagreed with the view pushed by Norquist.
“I don’t want the mosque to be built there,” Rove said, “but I understood that this was a local issue that would be settled in New York.” (See the video of Rove making the comment at 4 minutes and 20 seconds into the segment.)
Rove’s comment is carried in the video, but Stephanopoulos did not directly quote Rove’s opposition when he reported on the interview in his blog. Huma Khan of ABC News did carry the quote in a separate article.