White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan and White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton briefed reporters in the makeshift press room in Vineyard Haven.
TAPPER: I was wondering, some of the critics or some of the supporters of the Islamic center, the proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, have said that the opposition to it could fuel anti- American sentiment in the Muslim world. And I'm — being that this has gone on now for several weeks, I'm wondering, have you detected any of that? Have America's enemies been using this as a propaganda tool — the opposition to the Islamic center?
BRENNAN: We're staying focused on countering terrorist threats wherever they might develop. And there are a number of reasons that terrorist groups will point to, many of them unfounded. And indeed, we are continuing to prosecute the war against al Qaeda very effectively in many different parts of the world. So we are continuing to stay focused on that. There are a number of opportunities that we have with our partners to continue to have success against al Qaeda. We really have had the opportunity, over the past year, to undercut a number of their capabilities. And we continue to do so. So the debate over what's going on in New York City is something that I'm not really focused on at this point. I'm focused on making sure that we can keep the American people safe and prevent these terrorist groups from the — carrying out attacks here or anywhere.
TAPPER: I'm not asking — I'm not asking you to weigh in on this debate. I'm just wondering if — because supporters of the project have said opposition to it will affect the efforts of counterterrorism by the U.S. Have you seen any evidence of that?
MR. BRENNAN: I have not seen evidence of that to date.
TAPPER: Okay. And in terms of Megrahi, I'm wondering — there have been diplomatic efforts with Libya in the past few years. I'm wondering if that is at all a means to urge the government, either by stepping back from the diplomatic inroads that have been made or using the new relationship in some way to get him back in that Scottish prison.
MR. BRENNAN: We've continued to have effective and productive diplomatic exchanges with Libya on a variety of issues, including counterproliferation, counterterrorism as well. We will use those diplomatic channels to convey our sentiments on a broad range of issues, to include Mr. al-Megrahi.
TAPPER: Franklin Graham told CNN that President Obama — the reason so many Americans seem to believe President Obama is a Muslim is because “he was born a Muslim; his father was Muslim; the seed of Muslim (sic) is passed through the father; he's renounced Islam; he's accepted Jesus; but the confusion is because his father is a Muslim.” This is a major religious figure in this country. I was wondering if you guys had any response to that.
BURTON: You know, far be it from me to comment on someone's characterization of what some people said in a poll. I can't say why people necessarily change their mind in this poll. I can't say, you know, why folks even answer the question when pollsters call. But, you know, the president is a committed Christian. I think that the American people know that. And, you know, Franklin Graham is certainly entitled to his opinion.
– Jake Tapper