While you were on your summer vacation, or paying attention to the candidates leading the GOP field at the time, Herman Cain was running for president.
And for much of that time Cain stood out as the most inflammatory Republican in the field when it came to Islam. Months before a voter ever heard the phrase “9-9-9,” Cain attacked the faith again and again, culminating in a disastrous Fox News Sunday appearance where he actually said Islam is not a religion in the same way Christianity is and therefore does not deserve the same the same Constitutional protections.
Cain has walked some of this back a bit, but even so the fear of Sharia stuff is still very much a part of his campaign. Though you might not know it if - as with many people - he only hit your radar in the past couple weeks.
Part One: ThinkProgress’d
Let’s start at the beginning. Back in March, Cain told Christianity Today that, “based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.”
Chris Moody picked that one up. Along with the full context from the rest of the interview:
The role of Muslims in American society is for them to be allowed to practice their religion freely, which is part of our First Amendment. The role of Muslims in America is not to convert the rest of us to the Muslim religion. That I resent. And so I push back and reject them trying to convert the rest of us. And based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.
With that foundation laid, it was ThinkProgress who moved the ball forward thanks to reporter Scott Keyes, who caught up with Cain in Iowa and captured this now-famous interview:
“No, I will not,” Cain said when Keyes asked him if he’d appoint a Muslim to his administration. “There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.”
One Muslim group called Cain bigoted for that remark.
Part Two: Special Precautions
This begins chapter two of Cain’s journey with Islam on the campaign trail. Reporters were piqued by Keyes’ interview with Cain, and so they began asking him to clarify — is it really true, they asked, that you wouldn’t allow someone in your cabinet because he or she is a Muslim?
“I would have to have people totally committed to the Declaration of Independence,” Cain told Fox News in May. “And many of the Muslims, they’re not totally dedicated to this country, they’re not dedicated to our Constitution. Many of them are trying to force Sharia law on the people of this country.”
Cain said “I would certainly consider” a Muslim applicant to his administration who promised not to push for Sharia and uphold the Constitution. “If they were to give me a commitment, and they had some very critical skills to bring to the administration…of course I would consider them.”
So that was the genesis of the idea that would take over the next phase of Cain’s public criticism of Muslims: They need to pass special tests to prove they’re not enemies of the United States.
The way that played out was strange. As ThinkProgress and others cataloged, Cain said he’d require loyalty oaths, then said he kinda wouldn’t, then said he meant “terrorists” when he said Muslims. Then he got the PolitiFact Pants On Fire for all this backpedaling.
The whole thing was becoming defining for Cain, despite the fact that he wanted to talk about being an outsider an a successful CEO and all that. The whole mess came to a national head in July, when Cain went on Fox News Sunday and told Chris Wallace that Muslims don’t have the same right to worship where they want that other religions have.
“Islam is both a religion and a set of laws — Sharia laws,” Cain said. “That’s the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”
The argument over Cain’s special precautions continued through the summer. coming to a head when TPM confronted Herman Cain about them at the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis. At that point, it was becoming clear that Cain wanted to put the Muslim stuff behind him, though he continued to push the message that Muslim applicants for jobs in his administration would need an extra close look.
At the start of a press conference in Minneapolis, Cain said this:
“I’ve even been called a bigot because I expressed a desire to be cautious if I were to consider a Muslim for my administration. That was the intent of [the answer to ThinkProgress]…I’m not going to play nicey nice and say that I’m not going to take extra precautions in order to be able that make sure that we can do our job.”
Five to ten minutes later, Cain exploded when asked to explain those words, and claimed he never said anything of the sort:
The Muslim issue was officially a problem for Herman Cain.
Part Three: All Apologies
The result was an apology to Muslims for “statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends,” a moment that one in attendance said appeared to be genuine.
The apology and the meeting earned Cain a rebuke from some conservatives who once supported him and criticism from Rep. Allen West (R-FL), who’s also expressed deep concerns about a potential rise of Sharia.
Part Four: Still Got It
Even as he apologized, Cain continued to express fears about Sharia. Those concerns exist as a strong part of his campaign to this day. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Chrisite (R) dismissed the conservative Sharia fears as so much deluded paranoia, Cain attacked him.
And in the same interview — recorded just two weeks ago on Oct. 2 — Cain again made it clear that he’s the candidate of Sharia fear in the Republican nomination fight.
“Some people would infuse Sharia law in our court system if we allow it. I honestly believe that,” Cain told ABC’s This Week. “I’m sticking to it — American laws in American courts, period.”