updated 6/19/2007 9:22:16 AM ET 2007-06-19T13:22:16

Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback on Monday telephoned rival Mitt Romney to apologize for a campaign staffer’s e-mail criticizing the Mormon church.

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The Kansas senator “was very disappointed, clearly sort of personally hurt that this had happened in his team, and he said he is going to be very aggressive to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” spokesman Brian Hart said. “There’s no place for this in his campaign.”

Romney said Monday night that he had accepted Brownback’s apology.

“He said that religious attacks don’t have any place in politics and, of course, we agree on that,” Romney said. “I told him that was not a big matter to me. If I can’t stand the heat I shouldn’t be in the kitchen.”

During a trip to Panama City, Fla., Romney said his faith has not been an issue for people in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he has focused his campaign.

“They don’t seem to care much about where I go to church,” he said. “They care about what values I have, and as they get to see my family and my wife they realize my values are as American as you’ll find anywhere in this country.”

The e-mail asked for help in fact-checking negative statements about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for which Romney is a member, such as “the LDS Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Christian faith.” Hart said the aide who sent it, Emma Nemecek, was reprimanded.

Brownback is a former Methodist who converted to Roman Catholicism.

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