earlier today yesterday, Mitt Romney is quoted in an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor today as having ruled out Muslims for cabinet posts. He is predictably claiming that he was misquoted. If Mr. Ijaz, the op-ed’s author, has a tape, now would be the time to supply it.
In any event, though, TPM is on the case, and they’ve dug up some impressive nuggets. Basically, if the Monitor op-ed is accurate, it’s not the first time Romney has made similar comments.
At a private fund-raising luncheon in Las Vegas about three months ago, Mitt Romney said he would probably not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet if elected president, according to two witnesses interviewed by TPM Election Central.
Making this story potentially worse for Romney, one of the witnesses, Irma Aguirre, a former finance director of the Nevada Republican Party, says that she saw Romney’s comments as “racist.” She paraphrased Romney as saying: “They’re radical. There’s no talking to them. There’s no negotiating with them.”
The second witness, a self-described local registered Republican named George Harris, confirmed her account….
Aguirre says Romney made the comments three months ago at Lawry’s restaurant in Las Vegas, at a different event from the one chronicled in the Monitor op-ed. Aguirre says that she was at the event with local Republican George Harris, who asked Romney the relevant question. She described the exchange this way:
“His question was something to the effect of, `Considering the problems that we have with the Jihadist movement and the problems we have with the Middle East, would you consider having a Muslim as an adviser that can guide you as to what kind of decisions to make with regards to the Middle East?’”
“He said, `Probably not.’”
Aguirre added that what Romney said next surprised her. “He said something to the effect of, `They’re radicals. There’s no talking to them. There’s no negotiating with them.’ I can’t remember the exact words he used, but that was the explanation. We left thinking, `Wow, what a racist comment. He automatically assumed that all Muslims are radical.’”
Harris, a self-described registered Republican who’s also the state GOP finance chair and who asked Romney the question, confirmed this account in a telephone interview with TPM Election Central.
“My question was, `Look, with the amount of Muslims that don’t trust the United States, would you consider it prudent to put a Muslim in your cabinet?’ He said, `Most likely not.’ And he went on to say what Irma said he said. I was more angry than she was. I said, `I’m not gonna support this guy.’ If he’s gonna be President of the United States, don’t you think you need to be a little more open minded?”
As it happens, the question posed to Romney in Las Vegas led to the follow-up question, also in Nevada, three months later. Aguirre and Harris subsequently told the businessman who later wrote the Monitor article of their exchange with Romney. The businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, who has actively lobbied American officials on Mideast policy for many years, tells me that this is what prompted him to go to the event he described in the article and ask Romney the question again.
Fascinating stuff — kudos to Greg Sargent at TPM for digging this up.
UPDATE: TPM has dug up a contemporaneous account of the Nevada incident corroborating Ms. Aguirre’s and Mr. Harris’s recollection that Romney pretty much shot down the possibility of a Muslim in his cabinet.
So when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently addressed a group of a prominent local conservatives at a Las Vegas fundraiser, George [Harris] lobbed the first question: “If you are elected President,” he asked, “will you include any Muslim members in your cabinet?”
In the seconds before former Massachusetts Governor Romney responded, you could have heard a pin drop.
His (admittedly, very smooth) answer in a nutshell? “Not likely.”
Alrighty, then. It’s becoming pretty clear that Romney is talking a good diversity game to CNN and MSNBC, but is humming a different tune at private Republican fundraising events. I wonder why he’d do that …
FURTHER UPDATE: Wow, TPM has got its teeth into this one and they’re not letting go. They have now found a witness who corroborates Monsoor Ijaz’s account of what Romney said about Muslims in his cabinet, and disputes Romney’s revisionist version. The witness, a Republican, declined to make his name public.
I just got off the phone with another Nevada Republican who confirmed that Mansoor Ijaz’s account of Mitt Romney saying he’d nix Muslims in his cabinet is accurate.
This is the first person I’ve spoken to who directly confirmed Ijaz’s account of that particular event. The other two Nevada Republicans I spoke with yesterday confirmed that Romney had made very similar remarks at a different, earlier event.
“I can tell you that what was reported by Mansoor is accurate,” this person said to me. The man, a real estate broker and volunteer in local Republican politics, declined to allow his name to be used….
When I read Romney’s remarks to this Republican, however, he said: “I don’t recall Romney saying what you read to me,” adding that “what Monsoor stated was an accurate representation.”
TPM’s Greg Sargent sums it up thusly:
Romney’s representation of what happened is at odds with mounting evidence that Ijaz’s account is the accurate one.
Or, put less delicately, mounting evidence suggests that Romney is lying about what happened.