Despite criticism from Republicans and others, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he has "no regrets" over the comments he made about the right of Muslims to build an Islamic center near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York.
Obama's latest comment was in response to a question shouted by a reporter as he was leaving a townhall-style meeting on the economy in Ohio.
The president inserted himself into the debate over the proposed Islamic center, which includes a mosque, when he said last week Muslims "have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country" and that included building the Islamic center in lower Manhattan. A day later, Obama told reporters that he wasn't endorsing the specifics of the plan.
His position has drawn criticism from those who say that the $100 million Islamic center should not be built two blocks away from the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Republicans have seized on the issue, with many trying to force Democrats to either stand with the president or buck him.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is locked in a tight midterm election race, was the highest profile Democrat to move away from Obama, saying through a spokesman that he thinks the mosque should be built someplace else.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hedged on the controversy Wednesday, saying in a statement that while the freedom of religion is a constitutional right, "where a place of worship is located is a local decision."