Harry Reid: Ground Zero Mosque "Should be Built Some Place Else"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. takes part in a financial overhaul news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2010. AP

AP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was prompted today to state that he thinks the so-called "ground zero mosque" should be built somewhere else.

Republicans have threatened to make the mosque debate a 2010 campaign issue, and a few candidates -- including Reid's challenger Sharron Angle -- are beginning to do so.

"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion," Reid's spokesperson said in a statement today. "Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else. If the Republicans are being sincere, they would help us pass this long overdue bill to help the first responders whose health and livelihoods have been devastated because of their bravery on 911, rather than continuing to block this much-needed legislation."

Many conservatives have long decried the decision by New York City officials to allow for the construction of an Islamic community center and mosque a few blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Obama weighed in on the discussion on Friday, defending Muslims' religious freedom, which includes "the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."

Republicans said over the weekend that Mr. Obama's remarks nationalized the issue and left it open for debate in the midterm elections. Reid is the most high profile Democrat so far to break with president by stating that the mosque "should" not be built near ground zero. Mr. Obama has said he is not commenting on the "wisdom" of the decision.

Angle, who is in a tight race with Reid in Nevada, challenged Reid today to take a stand on the issue.

"By supporting the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero, President Obama has once again ignored the wishes of the American people, this time at the expense of victims of 9/11 and their families," Angle's spokesperson Jarrod Agen said in a statement. "As the Majority Leader, Harry Reid is usually President Obama's mouthpiece in the U.S. Senate, and yet he remains silent on this issue. Reid has a responsibility to stand up and say no to the mosque at Ground Zero or once again side with President Obama -- this time against the families of 9/11 victims."

Meanwhile, multi-millionaire Rick Scott, who is trying to regain momentum in the Florida Republican gubernatorial primary, is airing a television ad in which Scott states his opposition to the mosque, without tying the issue to the Florida race.

"Barack Obama says building a mosque at Ground Zero is about tolerance," Scott says. "He's wrong. It's about truth... Ground zero is the wrong place for a mosque."

Scott's opponent, Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, was ahead in the most recent poll, but he faced some backlash last week after jumping into another state-turned-national debate -- McCollum proposed Florida adopt an immigration law similar to the controversial law passed in Arizona.

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana has also directly engaged his campaign opponent on the issue of the mosque.

"President Obama's support of building the mosque at Ground Zero is a slap in the face to the American people and I've demanded that President Obama reverse his position. Charlie Melancon's silence on the issue is troubling to Louisiana families," Vitter said in a statement about his Democratic challenger. "But, we should not be surprised. Melancon endorsed President Obama, gave him an A grade and now is eerily quiet as Obama thumbs his nose at the American people on this important issue."

More coverage:

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Proposed Mosque Near Ground Zero Stokes Debate

Watch CBS News' Marc Knoller, Marc Ambinder and Bob Schieffer discuss on "Washington Unplugged" the impact over President Obama's remarks defending plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero:

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