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Ben Carson Campaign Stands Its Ground Over Muslim Comments Despite Backlash

Sean Rayford/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — After the Council on American-Islamic Relations called Monday for Dr. Ben Carson to drop out of the presidential race, Carson’s campaign pushed back against the notion it will effect his popularity with the public.

Campaign Manager Barry Bennett called the anti-Islamic allegation against the neurosurgeon outrageous and dared the Council on American-Islamic Relations to argue its message in front of the same audiences that Carson does.

“People who are trying to make Dr. Carson look like a racist bigot are absurd,” Bennett told ABC News over the phone. “I cannot imagine a day when a person who believes in all the tenants of the Koran could ever be elected president of this country.”

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad Monday called Carson “unfit to lead, saying he is “wrong today to assume and say that American Muslims should not be president of the United States.”

Carson’s campaign says he is not remotely suggesting that a Muslim should be prevented from running for any office including president, but does say he would not advocate for that person becoming a leader and would not support it.

“A person whose faith is deeply seated in Islam is inconsistent with the values of America and Dr. Carson would not advocate for their election as leader of the county,” Communications Director Doug Watts told ABC News.

The Carson campaign noted that an overwhelming percentage of people agree with his comments.
The campaign says they have not heard directly from CAIR, but said they are open to meetings and further conversations about the issue.

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Muslim Group CAIR Slams Ben Carson as ‘Unfit to Lead’

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A prominent U.S. Islamic group Monday said there’s no place in the presidential campaign for Ben Carson after the retired neurosurgeon said he would not support a Muslim for president.

“He’s unfit to lead,” Nihad Awad, executive director and founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said of Carson at a news conference Monday.

Besides saying he would not support a Muslim as president, the GOP candidate also said Islam, as a religion, was inconsistent with the Constitution. Carson told NBC’s Meet the Press he believed a president’s faith should matter “depending on what that faith is.”

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” Carson said. “If it’s [a president’s faith] inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter.”

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Why the White House Social Secretary Is Going to Have a Tough Week

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Pope Francis will be in the nation’s capital this week, causing headaches for thousands of commuters. One Obama administration official will certainly be feeling the pressure too.

White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyer, 37, will be coordinating Pope Francis’ visit to the White House, an event that will bring nearly 15,000 people to see the pope. Dyer is also organizing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival on Thursday and overseeing the state dinner for Mr. Xi on Friday.

While Pope Francis is known for his common touch, the first Chinese couple are not. Dyer and her staff must follow strict social protocol because the Chinese delegation is highly sensitive to any kind of protocol violation.

Dyer has been on the job for just five months. She previously was a hip-hop reporter for the Philadelphia City Paper and a White House intern.

First Lady Michelle Obama has used the role of social secretary to break traditions, first by selecting socialite Desiree Rogers (the first African-American to hold the job) and then Jeremy Bernard (the first male and openly gay social secretary).

“There are all sorts of places where offense could be taken, so you have to work closely with the State Department,” former Social Secretary Gahl Hodges Burt told The New York Times. “I’m sure Deesha has them on speed dial.”

And all eyes will be on what the first ladies will be wearing. China’s glamorous first lady, Peng Liyuan, a former opera singer, will be the one to watch when it comes to dress choices.

“The Chinese pay a lot of attention to state visits,” Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, told the Washington Post. “Every detail could resonate negatively.”

What the Obamas serve for dinner will be under the microscope too. At the last state dinner in honor of China, the Obamas served former president Hu Jintao an all-American meal of steak and potatoes. Friday’s menu is still a state secret, but vegetables from the White House garden are expected to be part of the First Feast.

The guest list has not been unveiled yet. No word if the Chinese leader’s daughter Xi Mingze, a Harvard graduate, will be attending.

China’s protocol officers also reportedly requested that protesters from groups such as Falun Gong are kept out of earshot from Mr. Xi. The Chinese do not want a repeat of 10 years ago, when a Falun Gong protester disrupted a reception for President Hu on the White House grounds.

Potshots are coming from within the U.S. too — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would offer Mr. Xi a hamburger rather than a state dinner.

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Today on the Trail — 9/21/15

ABC News (WASHINGTON) — Where will the 2016 presidential candidates be on Monday? Read below to find out their campaign schedules:

Hillary Clinton has events in both Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Little Rock, Arkansas on Monday.

Meanwhile, many of the 2016 candidates will be active in the late night talk show circuit this week.

On Monday night, Carly Fiorina will appear on the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” Ted Cruz is on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Bernie Sanders is on “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” on Comedy Central.

Jeb Bush is in Texas and Iowa. He will speak at the United States Hispanic Chamber of commerce Monday afternoon in Houston and later that evening hold a town hall in Mason City, Iowa.

Marco Rubio is in Georgia and North Carolina, holding an event in Atlanta Monday morning and another in Charlotte later in the day.

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Joe Biden Says He Can’t ‘Rush’ His 2016 Decision

Earl Gibson III/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden will not “rush” his 2016 decision as he weighs whether another presidential run would be in the best interest of his family, he said in an interview with America Media, a leading Catholic news organization.

“You have no right as an individual to decide to run. Your whole family is implicated, your whole family is engaged, and so for us it’s a family decision, and I just have to be comfortable that this will be good for the family,” the vice president said in an interview with the Rev. Matt Malone, president and editor in chief of America Media, an ABC News partner.

“In the past, all our political efforts have actually strengthened the family,” Biden said in his first interview with a news organization since his son Beau’s death in May. “It’s not quite there yet and it may not get there in time to make it feasible to be able to run and succeed because there are certain windows that will close, but if that’s it, that’s it. But it’s not like I can rush it.”

The comments are the vice president’s latest explanation into his thought process as he weighs another presidential run at a time when he and his family are still grappling with the death Beau, who died following a battle with brain cancer.

Biden, 72, said his family is now committed to focusing on the inspiration Beau provided, instead of talking about his loss.

“We don’t want to talk so much anymore about publicly or privately about the loss,” the vice president said. “We all decided that we should focus on the inspiration he [Beau] provided…Regardless of what I do in public or private life, we are not going to walk away from the things that were, that made Beau’s life, in his mind beyond his family, worthwhile.”

Biden recounted an expression his father shared throughout his life — “Just get up pal, get up,” adding, “That’s what Beau wants us to do. That’s what Beau expects his father to do, so we’re just getting up and moving on and we’re going to do good things in his name.”

The vice president’s 30-minute interview with Malone comes just before Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

“He’s the embodiment of Catholic social doctrine that I was raised with. The idea that everyone’s entitled to dignity,” Biden said. “I’m excited, quite frankly, as a practicing Catholic. I am really excited by the whole world is getting to see what are the basic essential elements of what constitutes Catholicism.”

Biden, who is the first Roman Catholic to become vice president, reflected on own how he balances his own faith with his political life.

“All the principles of my faith I make no excuse for attempting to live up to. I don’t all the time, but I’m not prepared to impose doctrine that I’m prepared to accept on the rest of them,” he said.

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NYC Mayor Praises Hillary Clinton, But Does Not Offer Endorsement

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised his former boss, Hillary Clinton, Sunday morning, calling her an “extraordinarily capable” person and dismissed talk that her campaign is in decline, but did not offer her his endorsement for her presidential campaign.

“I think she’s running a very good campaign because her vision is getting stronger and stronger,” the mayor said Saturday morning on This Week.

The mayor, who ran Clinton’s first campaign for Senate, cited a few policy positions he wanted the former secretary of state to expand upon.

“I think the issue of wages and benefits we need to hear a little more on, certainly on the trade issue. But I do want to say, since she announced, she has consistently put forward a stronger and stronger vision, literally each week, and that’s very encouraging,” he said to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

De Blasio also outlined his reasoning for not supporting a potential presidential bid by Vice President Joe Biden.

“I think we have great candidates right now, I really do. I’m very comfortable with the candidates we have. I think the Democratic debate is a constructive, positive one. I think with the candidates we have, we’ll do very well,” the mayor said.

The mayor used his appearance to take the Republicans seeking the White House to task for their “divisive visions.”

“The Republican field is not only attacking each other, they’re offering very divisive visions about this country that I think are actually going to turn off a lot of the American people,” he said.

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White House Staffer Killed in Cycling Incident

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama said Sunday he is “heartbroken” following the death of White House staffer Jake Brewer, who was killed in a cycling accident Saturday.

In a statement, Obama called Brewer “one of the best,” he served in the White House as a senior policy adviser in the Office of the Chief Technology Officer.

Brewer, 34, was killed in Howard County taking part in the charity bicycle ride “Ride to Conquer Cancer,” which announced Brewer’s passing on its website.

Obama offered condolences to Jake’s family, including his wife Mary Katherine Ham, their young daughter Georgia, and sibling for her on the way.

“Jake devoted his life to empowering people and making government work better for them.” —@POTUS on Jake Brewer:

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 20, 2015

Ham is a writer for the website Hot Air, and has posted moving tributes to her husband on her Instagram page.

“Armed with a brilliant mind, a big heart, and an insatiable desire to give back, Jake devoted his life to empowering people and making government work better for them,” Obama said. “I’ve often said that today’s younger generation is smarter, more determined, and more capable of making a difference than I was as a young man. Jake was proof of that.”

In addition to his work in the White House, Brewer was a competitive triathlete and published photographer, according to a White House statement.

“Jake lived and loved more in his 34 years than some people do in their whole lives,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith said. “He had a generous heart and a vision for engaging with technology, data, and most importantly each other, to create opportunity and find solutions together.”

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Jill Biden ‘On Board’ if the VP Decides to Run for President

Jeff Fusco/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden’s wife Dr. Jill Biden would be “on board” if the VP decides to run in 2016, a spokesman for Dr. Biden said.

“Of course Dr. Biden would be on board if her husband decides to run for president, but they haven’t made that decision yet,” James Gleeson, a spokesman for Dr. Biden, said.

The statement comes in response to an NBC report that Dr. Biden is already “100 percent on-board” with her husband running in 2016. Previous reports had indicated Dr. Biden, a key adviser to the vice president, was hesitant about her husband pursuing a third run for the White House.

Vice President Biden is still weighing whether he and his family have the emotional energy for a presidential bid. In an interview earlier this month, Biden indicated he was unsure whether he could cope with a run following the death of his son Beau.

“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless number 1, they know exactly why they would want to be president, and number 2, they can look folks out there and say, ‘I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy, and my passion to do this,'” Biden said on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.

“Nobody has a right in my view to seek that office unless they’re willing to give it 110 percent of who they are,” he said. “I’m optimistic, I’m positive about where we’re going … sometimes it just overwhelms you.”

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Hillary Clinton Says She Would Be a Political ‘Outsider’ as President

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Hillary Clinton argued Sunday that as president she would be as much a political outsider as any other candidate given that she would be the first female president.

“I cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider than the first woman president, I mean really, let’s think about it,” Clinton said during an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

Clinton tweeted the remark, too.

The Democratic presidential candidate said she often meets young girls at campaign events who ask her why there has never been a woman in the White House.

“All these mothers and fathers bring me the place mats with all the presidents, and they bring their daughters and they say, ‘My daughter has a question for you,'” Clinton said. “And then the daughter says, ‘How come there are no girls on this place mat?’ So, I think that is a pretty big, unconventional choice.”

When pressed further, Clinton acknowledged that “political outsiders” could refer to candidates who have never held public office. But, she argued, those people would not be as effective as she would be as president.

“I know what you’re asking, ‘Do we want people who have never been elected to anything, who have no political experience, who’ve never made any hard choices in the public arena?’ Well, voters are going to have to decide that,” she said.

Clinton’s comments could be seen as a knock against Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina — none of whom have ever been elected to public office, but are leading in the Republican polls.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, however, is also admired for being a political outsider by progressives. He is seeing massive support, gaining steadily in the polls, and even leading Clinton in New Hampshire.

During her interview Sunday, Clinton also brushed aside the notion that she isn’t authentic and doesn’t show her “real” self out on the campaign trail.

“I can’t possibly do that,” Clinton said when asked to name three adjectives that describe her. “Look, I am a real person. with all the pluses and minuses that go along with it.”

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Ben Carson Would Not Support a Muslim as President

Sean Rayford/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Sunday he would not support a Muslim as president.

The retired neurosurgeon also said Islam, as a religion, was inconsistent with the Constitution. Carson told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he believed a president’s faith should matter “depending on what that faith is.”

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” Carson said. “If it’s [a president’s faith] inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter.”

Fellow GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire this weekend when he didn’t correct an audience member at a campaign event who claimed the president was a Muslim who was not born in the United States. Many presidential candidates — Democrat and Republican — criticized him for the incident.

On Saturday, Trump defended himself on Twitter saying that he wasn’t “morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him.” He reiterated his defense during his remarks at the GOP Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event that night.

He also attended a homecoming at Urbandale High School in Urbandale, Iowa, Saturday night where a student asked him whether he would include a Muslim-American in his cabinet. He said, “Of course … next question.”

Carson, who has been near the top of several presidential polls, said he would consider voting for a Muslim in Congress “[depending] on who that Muslim is and what their policies are.”

ABC News has reached out to Carson’s campaign for comment.

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