GENEVA (REUTERS) - The United States' nominee to lead the United Nations migration agency denied on Monday (March 19) that he was anti-Islam while acknowledging a controversy over some of his social media posts and retweets in the past.
"I have never shown discrimination against anybody or anything, period, other than if they need help. If they need help I always help them," said Ken Isaacs, currently vice-president of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian aid organisation.
Isaacs is one of three candidates bidding to head the International Organization for Migration, the UN body whose role includes coordinating aid for Muslim Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar and tracking thousands of Africans trying to migrate to Europe.
Last month, the Washington Post said it had found tweets, social media posts and radio appearances by Isaacs which the newspaper said included disparaging remarks about Muslims.
"First I would point out that the bio at the top says retweets are not endorsements. I have retweeted many things to stimulate conversation," Isaacs said at a briefing arranged by the US mission in Geneva.
"I can see that there's some controversy about that," he said.
He said he had worked in Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Bangladesh, and officials that he had met from UN member countries could tell immediately that he did not harbour any prejudice.
"They feel satisfied, after talking to me for a minute or two and hearing who I am, what I talk about, where my heart is, that question just goes to bits," he said.
The job is traditionally filled by an American, but the stakes have been raised by U.S. President Donald Trump's policies, which have frequently caused diplomatic storms, and by IOM's induction into the United Nations in 2016, which has raised its profile and caused friction with the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.
"He embodies what the United States believes," said Jennifer Arangio, senior director of the US National Security Council, sitting alongside Isaacs.
Isaacs declined to take a position on Trump's plan for a wall along the Mexican border or on the situation of Palestinian refugees.
He also declined to say whether he believed that climate change, a major driver of migration, was caused by humans.
"Whether or do or whether I don't does not take away from the fact that climate disasters happen," he said. "I'm not a climatologist, I'm not going to jump into that discussion."