WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney disputed a report Tuesday that he categorically ruled out appointing a Muslim to a Cabinet position.
Mansoor Ijaz, an American born businessman of Islamic faith, writes in the Christian Science Monitor that at a recent campaign event Romney said assigning a Muslim to his Cabinet would not be "justified" based on their percentage of the population.
"Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead," Ijaz writes. "Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking."
Campaigning in Florida, the former Massachusetts governor denied making such a blanket statement.
“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 you need to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to take on radical jihad any more than during the second world war we needed to have a Japanese American to help us understand the threat that was coming from Japan.
“The people who would be part of my cabinet is something that I really haven't given a lot of thought to at this point, but I don't have boxes I check off as to their ethnicity…instead I would choose people based upon their merits and their capabilities,” he added.
Meanwhile, rival John McCain took aim at the alleged comments while campaigning in South Carolina. (Watch McCain's comments)
“I think his comment is indicative of how he might govern and I think it's absolutely wrong,” said the Arizona senator. “You appoint the most qualified people for the job, no matter who they are, where they come from, or where in America, as long as they're citizens.”
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney