In two recent interviews, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has said, strangely, that one of his top priorities at NASA is to reach out to Muslim countries. He initially made the claim in February, but then last month said Obama had directly given him that objective, going as far as assessing that Muslim outreach was “perhaps [the] foremost” priority in the organization’s mission moving forward. The comments drew criticism from conservatives as well as former NASA officials, and now White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has offered the administration’s take.
“That was not his task and that’s not the task of NASA,” said Gibbs, who responded “I think so” when asked if he believes Bolden misspoke about the focus on Muslim outreach.
Bolden said in the interview that Obama told him before he took over that he was charged with three central tasks: inspiring interest in math and science among young people, expanding international ties, and “perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering.”