On Friday night, Anderson Cooper took on Renee Ellmers, a Republican House candidate in North Carolina who has now based her campaign on opposing the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," the Muslim community center project all the way up north in New York City. And the interview sure was a sight to behold.
Ellmers is running against incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge. Her ad declared: "After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, and Cordoba, and Constantinople, they built victory mosques. And now, they want to build a mosque by Ground Zero. Where does Bob Etheridge stand? He won't say, won't speak out, won't take a stand." Ellmers herself then cut in: "The terrorists haven't won. And we should tell them in plain English, no, there will never be a mosque at Ground Zero."
For one thing, Cooper asked Ellmers about how her ad uses the terms "Muslim" and "terrorists" interchangeably. Ellmers actually tried to wiggle out of that: "Well, to be honest, I think that you could make that assumption, but, you know, that's -- that's not giving me the benefit of the doubt."
Cooper replied: "I mean, that's -- your words are very carefully selected."
"The words are carefully selected, but that is certainly not what I'm intending to say. I am not intending to say that all Muslims are terrorists," Ellmers replied. "Basically, what I am saying, sir, is that there were terrorists who attacked us. They were Islamic jihadists. And, as a result of that, we have seen the devastation on 9/11."
Cooper also asked her about her ad's contention that Muslims would build "victory mosques" in places they conquered.
COOPER: But don't all -- don't all religions do that? I mean, you're Catholic. Rome was conquered from the pagans and their altars destroyed so the Vatican could be built.
Christian conquistadors and pilgrims to America all destroyed local religions and built their own houses of worship. Is the Vatican a victory church?
ELLMERS: No, that is the --
COOPER: It's not?
ELLMERS: You are -- you are incorrect in your statement, sir. That is not what has happened.
COOPER: Wait. Wait. So, wait. Just about every religion -- when a religion in the past used to conquer in a war, they wouldn't build a house of worship; the Catholic Church didn't build houses of worship on -- on the sites of other religions?
ELLMERS: Now, we all know about religion. I'm a Christian.
COOPER: Well, yes or no. I know you're a -- right.
ELLMERS: I am Catholic. Yes, I am.
No, you -- you are wrong in your assumptions.
COOPER: Wait. Wait. Wait. I'm wrong -- (CROSSTALK)
ELLMERS: And, you know, I guess -- I guess what I could ask you is, are you anti-religion? Are you anti-Christian in your thinking?
COOPER: That is -- that is like -- that's like the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate, I have got to tell you.
ELLMERS: Really? Really?