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Samaritan's Purse leader, a Trump nominee for UN post, apologizes for Muslim remarks

Joe Marusak and Tim Funk, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in News & Features

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Trump administration nominee who has long worked for Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse has apologized for calling Muslims violent.

Ken Isaacs, tapped to become director general of the United Nations International Organization for Migration, has led relief efforts all over the world for the Boone, N.C.-based Christian relief organization.

In a Feb. 3 investigative report, The Washington Post said it reviewed tweets, social media posts and radio appearances in which Isaacs made disparaging remarks about Muslims and denied climate change – "a driving force behind migration, according to the agency the State Department has nominated him to lead."

The Post reported that in June, after a terrorist attack in London, Isaacs re-posted and commented on a CNN International story that quoted a Catholic bishop saying, "This isn't in the name of God, this isn't what the Muslim faith asks people to do."

Isaacs responded: "CNN, Bishop if you read the Quran you will know 'this' is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do."

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group based in Washington, D.C., charged in a Sunday Facebook post that "this type of nomination coming from the Trump administration is a symptom of its deep hostility toward immigrants, migrants and Muslims."

After The Post sent some of Isaacs' social media comments to the State Department and requested comment, his Twitter account was made private, according to the Post, and the department issued a statement from Isaacs apologizing for his posts.

"I deeply regret that my comments on social media have caused hurt and have undermined my professional record," his statement read, according to the Post. "It was careless and it has caused concern among those who have expressed faith in my ability to effectively lead IOM. I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM."

The State Department told the Post that it would continue to back the nomination and cited Isaacs' experience of helping diverse populations worldwide.

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For several decades, Isaacs has led Samaritan's Purse's disaster relief efforts, including to Haiti, which was wrecked by an earthquake in 2010, to Japan after its deadly 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Graham, a North Carolina-based evangelist who is president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse, has also been criticized for his comments about Islam. He described the faith as a "very evil and wicked religion" in 2001.

In 2015, Graham proposed a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. His comment came months before then-candidate Donald Trump endorsed the same action.

There's a chance that the 169-member UN International Organization for Migration could reject Isaacs. The vote is scheduled for June 29.

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