GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome back to my exclusive interview with President Barack Obama. Mr. President, thank you for doing this.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, thank you.
OBAMA: No, really. Thank you.
STEPHAOPOULOS: Moving right along. Mr. President, even though the vast majority of Americans, and even residents of New York City, feel deeply that the proposed Park51 mosque two blocks from where 3,000 people were slaughtered in the name is Islam is extraordinarily insensitive and should be built elsewhere, you've vigorously defended the constitutional right of Imam Rauf to do so. You've also steadfastly refused to take a position on the wisdom of building the Park51 mosque at that location. As a President known for Muslim outreach and still popular with Muslims throughout the world, why won't you use that credibility and seek a compromise by asking Imam Rauf to reconsider the location, as a statement of the very religious reconciliation and interfaith harmony he says the Park51 project is meant to promote?
OBAMA: That's a long question, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you need me to repeat it?
OBAMA: No, that's fine. By the way, did you know that something like one in five Americans think I'm a Muslim?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not going to answer my question, are you?
OBAMA: I have no regrets.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Moving right along. Mr. President, as a related question, what is your position on the Rev. Terry Jones of Florida, and his plan to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11 this weekend?
OBAMA: George, this country was built on freedom and religious tolerance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And doesn't the Rev. Jones have the same Constitutional freedom to burn the Koran, however distasteful that might be, that Imam Rauf has to build the Park51 mosque two blocks from Ground Zero? Even Mayor Bloomberg says he does.
OBAMA: George, just because we have the right to do something doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do. We have to be sensitive to the deeply held feelings of others. I want Rev. Jones to understand this stunt that he is talking about pulling is not only unhelpful, but unwise. It won't advance religious reconciliation or interfaith harmony, and it will put our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in danger, at least until I finish withdrawing them. I just hope the Rev. Jones listens to those better angels and understands that this is a destructive act that he's engaging in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: An "un-American" act, as the State Department calls it?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you see no inconsistency or double standard here?
OBAMA: Double standards are the hobgoblins of politically unsophisticated minds, George. That's why I've suggested a truly American compromise to the Rev. Jones that will spare the deeply held feelings of Muslims everywhere yet still allow him to hold his little protest.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that compromise protest be?
OBAMA: That the Rev. Jones simply burn a flag instead. You just can't get more American than that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Amazing, that one in five Americans think that you're a Muslim.
OBAMA: I know. All things considered, you'd really think it would be more by this point, wouldn't you?