Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson faced a backlash on Monday after saying he would not support a Muslim president, and a prominent civil rights group called for him to withdraw from the race.
Carson, a former Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he would "not advocate" for a Muslim president and that he felt Islam is "inconsistent" with the U.S. Constitution.
The remarks drew a rebuke from a wide range of politicians and organizations Monday, including the White House. An official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that Carson should forgo his campaign, which is polling in second place nationally.
"His views are inconsistent with the United States Constitution," said the group's executive director, Nihad Awad, noting the document expressly prohibits a religious test for public office. "We ask Mr. Ben Carson to withdraw ... because he's unfit to lead."
Carson, a former Maryland resident who now lives in Florida, did not immediately respond to the fallout. An adviser told several media organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, that Carson would not apologize for "telling the truth."
Carson is no stranger to controversial statements, and those remarks have often served to boost his standing among conservatives. He gained attention early on for comparing the United States to Nazi Germany and describing Obama's health care law as the worst thing that has happened to the nation since slavery.
Asked by "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd whether faith should matter to voters, Carson responded by saying that if the faith is "inconsistent with the values ... of America, then of course it should matter."
"So, do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?" Todd asked.
"No, I do not," Carson said. "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."
The response drew an outcry from Democrats, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
"Dr. Carson's remarks were outrageous and insulting," the Maryland lawmaker said in a statement. "I urge Dr. Carson to withdraw his remarks or withdraw from the nominating process."
The Baltimore Jewish Council said in a statement: "We're not only disappointed with this intolerant view towards the Muslim community, but also his misrepresentation of our country's founding values."