President Obama today said he had "no regrets" weighing in on the debate over the proposed Islamic center in New York City. Earlier today, Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush, slammed Obama for chiming in on the New York Islamic center debate and for saying the Republican Party's slogan is "No, we can't."
"The president was better to have signaled a tone of respect for Islam on Friday night without engaging in a local controversy that he previously avoided and after Saturday morning, that he said he'll avoid again," Rove said on "Good Morning America" today.
"He did real damage to America's standing in the world by this inconsistent and incoherent answer that he gave Friday night with a different answer on Saturday morning," Rove added.
Obama said Friday that he believes Muslims have "the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan," but on Saturday said that he would not comment on the "wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there."
Today, when asked by ABC News' David Kerley after an event in Columbus, Ohio, if he regrets jumping in on the debate, the president replied: "The answer is no regrets."
The White House has denied that there was a change in Obama's message. White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said Saturday that it's not the president's role to "pass judgment on every local project. But it is his responsibility to stand up for the constitutional principle of religious freedom and equal treatment for all Americans."
Still, several prominent Republicans seized on Obama's remarks and demanded that the president and Democrats state their opposition or support for the proposed cultural center one way or another.
The debate has also divided Democrats, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying he's opposed to the Islamic center being built on the proposed site, which is a few blocks from ground zero. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, said the matter should be left up to New Yorkers, but that she "respects the right of people in this country to express their religious beliefs in their property." Pelosi called for an investigation into the funding behind the opposition to the Islamic Center.
"There's no question that there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some," Pelosi told reporters in California, adding that she wanted to know how this is "being ginned up."
Pelosi's office today released a statement saying that it agrees with the Interfaith Alliance's statement that "there is a need for transparency about who is funding the effort to build this Islamic center. At the same time, we should also ask who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center."
Rove said he's worried about the GOP taking Obama's comments too far and damaging the his former boss's and Obama's outreach to the Muslim world. But he blamed Obama for making this a national debate.
"I don't want the mosque to be built there, but I understood this was a local issue that will be settled in New York," Rove said.