Former president George W. Bush was on the Today Show with Matt Lauer, promoting his new book, Decision Points, and he was pushed to take a stand on Park 51, the Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero. As you may recall, at the peak of the controversy this summer, a number of supporters of Park 51 called on him to speak up, in hopes that he would voice support for the project and perhaps chide the most virulently anti-Islamic speakers.
He didn't then, and he refused to today, saying he didn't want to have his words on the issue -- or any other issue -- constantly compared to those of President Obama. Lauer tried to elicit some response, any response on the issue, but didn't get very far.
LAUER: Well, without saying whether they should build the community center or not, are you disappointed by the increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country that we’ve seen recently?
BUSH: I think most Americans welcome freedom of religion and honor religions. I truly do. And the problem with the arena today is a few loud voices can dominate the discussion and I don’t intend to be one of the voices in the discussion.
Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
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