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Mixed message. The president’s comments about a mosque near ground zero in New York kick off a political storm. Tonight, religion, politics and plans for an Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero. The senate’s top democrat breaks with the president and says don’t build it. From CBS News world headquarters in New York, this is the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
Good evening, everyone. We’re beginning tonight with that controversy over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque here in New York City. Two blocks from where the world trade center once stood until the 911 attacks by Islamic terrorists. At first, the Obama White House said the mosque was a local issue. If it was, it’s not any more. Not since the president decided to weigh into the controversy last Friday night. Now it’s all tied up in election year politics. Our chief white house correspondent Chip Reid is traveling with the president in Wisconsin tonight. Chip, this is not what the president wants to be talking about heading into those mid-term elections?
Absolutely, Katie. The president’s remarks ignited a firestorm over the weekend. And here in Wisconsin today, he tried to change the subject. After the touring the clean energy battery factory outside Mowaki, the president wanted to talk about jobs. “Expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012.” But many republicans want to keep the focus on the controversies stirred up by the president over the weekend with these remarks. “I believe that Muslims have that right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.” That includes he said the right to build an Islamic community center and mosque at the site near ground zero.
But after a wave of criticism from republicans on Saturday, the president appeared to back off saying that while Muslims have the right to build the mosque that doesn’t mean they should. While some democrats are treating the issue like a political minefield, others have applauded the president for standing up for a core American value. “We don’t prefer people. We don’t punish people based on the religion.”
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