Flashback: Colin Powell Weighs in on the Idea of a Muslim U.S. President

The former secretary of state's 2008 statements on the issue take on renewed relevance.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Republican Ben Carson's assertion that the Islamic faith is not "consistent" with the U.S. Constitution, and that he "would not advocate" a Muslim president, is just the latest instance of the negative views some Americans continue to hold in a post 9/11 world. 

At a New Hampshire campaign rally on Friday, Donald Trump refused to repudiate a supporter who, at a campaign rally, declared, "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims," and went on to say that President Obama "is one."

That scene brought back memories of how then-Republican nominee John McCain handled a similar encounter back during the 2008 presidential campaign.


"No, ma'am," McCain told a woman who had said she couldn't trust Obama because he was an "Arab." "He's  a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."

While McCain's defense of Obama was widely praised at the time, it also left uncorrected the impression that being an Arab in and of itself was something negative. 

That task fell to former secretary of state Colin Powell, who made his case on Meet the Press on Oct. 20, 2008. 


A majority of Americans would appear to agree with Powell over Carson when it comes to whether being a member of the Islamic faith should automatically disqualify a person from becoming president. A Gallup poll taken in June found that 60 percent of U.S. adults would vote for a Muslim, while 38 percent would not. Still, just 45 percent of Republican voters said they were willing to vote for a Muslim. 


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