What was initially reported on Friday (Oct 7th) differs from the quote I’ve heard the media air for the last two days:
Perry campaign spokesman, Mark Miner, emailed Perry’s response to FOX News: “The governor doesn’t agree with every single issue with everyone he knows or supports his candidacy. He is running for president to get our economy back on track and create jobs. Those are the real issues that matter to people.”
I appreciated reading Jennifer Rubin’s article yesterday in the Washington Post. She sets the record straight:
But the big news was not the vote itself [at the Values Voter Summit]. On Friday, the appearance of Pastor Robert Jeffress set of a chain of events that may be remembered long after the vote results are forgotten. Jeffress in his introduction of Perry voiced his previously known anti-Mormon views. Afterward, he doubled down in remarks to reporters. First the speech:
Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric or one who is skilled in leadership? Do we want a candidate who is a conservative out of convenience or one who is a conservative out of deep conviction? Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person — or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?”
Then he told Politico:
Texas evangelical leader Robert Jeffress, the megachurch pastor who introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit, said . . .he does not believe Mitt Romney is a Christian.
Jeffress described Romney’s Mormon faith as a “cult” and said evangelicals had only one real option in the 2012 primaries.
“That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult,” Jeffress told reporters here. “Every true, born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”
Asked by Politico if he believed Romney is a Christian, Jeffress answered: “No.”
The Christian leader warned that in a general-election race between Romney and Obama, he believes many evangelicals will stay home and leave the GOP nominee without their votes.
Remember, Rick Perry did not distance himself from the pastor’s introduction. Instead, he thanked the Baptist Pastor for a “very powerful introduction” and added “he knocked it out of the ballpark.”
The initial response by the Perry team was pathetically insufficient. Perry spokesman Mark Miner threw out this bit of moral vacuity: “The governor doesn’t judge what is in the heart and soul of others.” But what about the words? Is he mute on expressions of overt prejudice? Does he reject the comments as bigoted? Miner e-mailed me on Friday afternoon: “As I said, the governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult. [*Said? That isn't what he originally said.] The governor doesn’t get into the business of judging other people’s hearts or souls. He leaves that to God. The governor’s campaign is about uniting Americans of all backgrounds behind a pro-growth, jobs agenda for this country.” In other words, when presented with such overt prejudice (and the potential loss of evangelical support), Perry went mute. While Perry did not select Jeffress to introduce him, he did approve the choice.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, on Friday afternoon, tweeted: “A number of my close personal friends are Mormon. I find Pastor Robert Jeffries’s intro of Gov. Perry totally offensive and repugnant.” That was the voice of moral clarity sadly missing from Perry’s response.
(*My emphasis and insert)
An interesting note… Shortly before Perry entered the presidential race, he organized a controversial day of prayer in Texas in which about 20,000 people attended. Guess who helped him? Jefress.
A spokesman for the Perry campaign was quick to point out that conference organizers chose Jefress to introduce Perry at the VVS. As Nate pointed out in his article, Dallas-based Jefress’ reputation was well known. And, as Rubin stated, Perry approved Jeffress’ introduction. Too cozy by half…
Perry laid the religion egg. For appearance sake, looks like he is now sauntering away from it. Behind the scenes, some think he is tending the incubator:
Scott McLean, a political scientist at Quinnipiac University and presidential election analyst, told FoxNews.com that he believes the Perry campaign orchestrated Jeffress’ attack on Romney’s faith “to test the waters.” He said he expects Perry surrogates to launch more under-the-radar attacks on Romney’s faith to make Romney look less attractive.
We’ll hear more about this issue Tuesday night at the presidential debate. Whrrrrrrr…
Have other GOP candidates risen to Governor Romney’s defense?
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a presidential candidate who performed strongly at the Values Voter summit, said he does not believe Mormonism is a cult, and believes Romney is a Christian.
“I’m not an expert on Mormonism. All I know is that every Mormon I know is a good and decent person, has great moral values and, by and large, with the exception of Harry Reid, by and large, pretty consistent in the values that I share and that things I want to see happen to this country. And that’s what he should be judged on,” Santorum said on “Fox News Sunday,” jabbing at the Senate Democratic leader.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said someone’s specific religion has no place in the conversation.
“I think that none of us should sit in judgment on somebody’s else’s religion and I thought it was very unwise and very inappropriate,” he said, adding that he thinks Mormons are Christians.
Businessman Herman Cain, who appeared with Gingrich on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” was a little more circumspect.
“I believe that they believe they’re Christians,” Cain said of Mormons. He added that the candidates are running to be “theologian-in-chief.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told CNN that the issue is about religious tolerance, not someone’s faith.
“To make this a big issue is ridiculous right now, because every day I’m on the street talking to people. This is not what people are talking about,” she said.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who won the Values Voter straw poll, told Fox News that he disagrees with Jeffress and the comment was “unnecessary.”
► Jayde Wyatt