The author of a much-discussed op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor -- which charged that former Gov. Mitt Romney said he would likely not appoint a Muslim-American to his presidential cabinet - says Romney's explanation for the comment is a flat out lie.
Mansoor Ijaz, a prominent Islamic businessman, told the Huffington Post that Romney's comments were made in reference to possible cabinet appointments and not, as the former governor has since claimed, in the context of combating Islamic extremism.
"This guy is lying now to the American people," said Ijaz. "He probably never imagined someone would come out and write a piece the way I did. And I think he made a serious mistake in judgment in trying to disown what he said."
In an oped on Tuesday titled "A Muslim Belongs in the White House," Ijaz wrote of a private campaign event he attended in which Romney claimed he could not see how appointing a Muslim to his cabinet could be "justified" considering the group's demographics in America.
Pressed to explain his statement later in the day, Romney said it had been taken out of context.
"His question was did I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical Jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet," said Romney. "And I said, 'No, I don't think that you have to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to be able to take on radical Jihad anymore than during the Second World War we needed to have a Japanese-American to understand the threat that was coming from Japan or something of that nature.' I just rejected that argument..."
Reached by phone, Ijaz scoffed at such an interpretation of what transpired.
"I can tell you," he said, "that Romney's push back, meaning his statement about the Japanese is all bullshit. He never talked about the Japanese at that point. Everything he said today is simply trying to reconfigure this item, which is he doesn't feel there is a need to put people of Islamic faith into his cabinet."
Moreover, he added, this is not the first time the Massachusetts Republican has made off-the-cuff remarks that Muslims have found insensitive. Indeed, as reported by Talking Points Memo, Romney rejected the idea of appointing a Muslim to a high-ranking White House position at an earlier and, again, private campaign stop.
Irma Aguirre, the former finance director for the Nevada Republican Party, told the Huffington Post about her experience at a Romney fundraiser roughly two months ago:
"I was curious to listen to Romney, I was very impressed by him and I'm kind of undecided about whom to support. Well, at one point, they opened questions to the audience and a gentleman who was with me... raised his hand and posed a question. 'Being that Muslims do not really trust America's leaders, do you think it would be prudent, or would you consider having a Muslim in your cabinet as an adviser to lend credibility to the administration? His response was 'probably not' or 'most likely not.'"
According to Aguirre, Romney pivoted from the question into a discussion on the dangers jihadism posed to America.
"I was shocked and disgusted," she recounted. I felt like "he was assuming that all Muslims were jihadists. And later, I just kind of looked at a friend of mine who is a huge Mitt Romney supporter, she asked me, 'Isn't he great?' and I said, 'absolutely not.'"
Romney's campaign did not respond by time of publication.