A homeland security adviser to Rudy Giuliani came under fire Thursday for claiming there were "too many mosques" in the United States - and defended himself by saying his point was that not enough Muslim leaders cooperate with law enforcement.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and the top GOP member on the panel, said his comments to the Politico Web site were taken out of context. Democrats said Giuliani should drop him as a campaign adviser.
"I stand by everything I said other than the fact that the Politico totally took it out of context," King said Thursday.
In the Politico interview, King said: "Unfortunately we have too many mosques in this country, there's too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully, we should be finding out how we can infiltrate, we should be much more aggressive in law enforcement."
Giuliani, speaking to reporters Thursday in Northern Virginia, chuckled at the suggestion he dump King as an adviser.
"I've known Pete for 41 years, so I'm not about to do that," Giuliani said. "I know exactly what Pete meant. I knew before I even heard the clarification. What he means was that there are mosques in which violence is preached. I know that from my own investigations of Islamic terrorism. I also know that there are many mosques in which it isn't."
As for any political fallout, King told The Associated Press: "Rudy can take care of himself. He's a tough guy, but I would think that campaigns would respect someone like myself who says things that might be politically incorrect but are accurate in that too many Muslim leaders in this country do not denounce extremism."
The congressman was denounced by the DC-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that has long accused King of lobbing unfair attacks against American Muslims.
"We call on Republican leaders and other people of conscience to repudiate Representative King's bigoted remarks and to support the civil and religious rights of all Americans," said CAIR official Corey Saylor.
Both the Muslim group and the Democratic party called on Giuliani to drop King from the campaign. Giuliani spokeswomen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Democratic party spokeswoman Stacie Paxton called on King to apologize and urged Giuliani to drop King as his homeland security adviser, saying "this type of bigoted language has no place in public discourse."
King said his point was not that there were too many mosques in the United States, but that too many of those mosques do not cooperate with law enforcement - a claim he made in 2003 and 2004 which also prompted criticism.
"I know of any number of mosques in New York that are under surveillance by law enforcement because they have suspicious links, at the very least radical links, that are inappropriate," he said.