Video: Romney’s Mormonism an issue

  1. Transcript of: Romney’s Mormonism an issue

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Now to presidential politics where GOP front-runner Mitt Romney , his religion is once again drawing attention after a Dallas pastor voiced his belief that Mormonism is a cult. Chuck Todd is NBC 's political director and chief White House correspondent. Hey, Chuck , good morning.

    CHUCK TODD reporting: Good morning, Ann. You know, running for a second time and consistently running even with President Obama in many state and national polls, Mitt Romney 's folks thought his Mormon faith would not become an issue this year, and up until this past weekend that was the case. But just like four years ago, Romney's finding out his faith is still a big hurdle for some evangelicals.

    Pastor ROBERT JEFFRESS: Rick Perry is a proven leader. He is a true conservative, and he is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ .

    TODD: The battle for the Republican nomination is taking an ugly turn after this evangelical Christian leader, Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress , turned his endorsement of Rick Perry at Friday's Values Voter Summit into an attack on Mitt Romney 's Mormon faith.

    Pastor JEFFRESS: Mitt Romney 's a good moral person, but he's not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity . It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity .

    TODD: At the same conference on Saturday, Romney fired back at Jeffress and other evangelicals who have wrongly characterized his religion.

    Governor MITT ROMNEY: Poisonous language doesn't advance our cause. It's never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind.

    TODD: Perry 's campaign did not renounce the Jeffress endorsement, but on Saturday, Perry was forced to distance himself from the pastor's remarks.

    Unidentified Man #1: Governor, is Mormonism a cult?

    Governor RICK PERRY: No.

    Unidentified Man #2: Do you believe that Mormonism is a cult, Governor?

    Gov. PERRY: No, I've already answered that back there. I told him no.

    TODD: Not all evangelicals believe Mormonism is unchristian. Former presidential candidate Pat Robertson recently called Romney "an outstanding Christian," but some of Romney's opponents won't go that far.

    Mr. HERMAN CAIN (CNN/"State of the Union"): He's a Mormon , that much I know. I am not going to do an analysis of Mormonism vs. Christianity for the sake of answering that.

    Representative MICHELE BACHMANN: We have religious tolerance in the country, and we understand that people have different views on their faith.

    TODD: The other Mormon in the Republican race, Jon Huntsman , dismissed the entire debate.

    Governor JON HUNTSMAN: Here in New Hampshire that is seen as the most ridiculous sideshow in recent politics.

    TODD: Romney also faced questions about his religion during his first presidential run in 2008 . He responded to it by pulling a page from the Kennedy Catholic playbook of 1960 , delivering a speech about his faith and doing it in Texas where he mentioned the word Mormon just once.

    Gov. ROMNEY (December 6, 2007): If I'm fortunate to became your president, I will serve no one religion.

    TODD: But in 2012 , even evangelical leaders say most Christian conservatives won't fixate on Romney's faith, but instead the economy.

    Mr. RALPH REED (Faith and Freedom Coalition): Mitt Romney 's not running for pastor, he's not running for bishop, and he's not running for pope. This is a presidential election .

    TODD: You know, many close to Romney believe the only reason he lost Iowa in 2008 to evangelical conservative Mike Huckabee was due to an anti- Mormon whisper campaign, and two of the four most important early tests for Romney , Iowa and South Carolina , have very large evangelical populations in the Republican primary and very small Mormon populations, Ann.

    CURRY: It'll be interesting to see how tolerant we are on the base of religion. All right, Chuck Todd , thanks so much. It is now 7:16. Once again, here's Matt.

updated 10/10/2011 9:59:04 AM ET 2011-10-10T13:59:04

Two Republican presidential candidates refused to say Sunday whether they believe Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a Christian, while a third said he doesn't agree with a Texas pastor who called the religion a "cult."

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Businessman Herman Cain and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann declined to answer questions about Romney's Mormon religion.

"He's a Mormon, that much I know," Cain said. "I am not going to do an analysis of Mormonism versus Christianity for the sake of answering that."

Bachmann called the issue a distraction.

"I think what the real focus is here, is on religious tolerance. That's really what this is about," Bachmann said. "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."

Story: Romney denounces 'poisonous language' against Mormonism

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who runs in the GOP presidential campaign as a social conservative, was more direct, saying — as Texas Gov. Rick Perry did Friday — that he didn't consider Mormonism a cult.

"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," Santorum said.

But when asked if he believed Romney is "a true Christian," Santorum spoke somewhat haltingly: "Mitt Romney is a true, he says he's a Christian. I believe he said Christian."

In Romney's 2008 campaign, Mormons said they felt maligned by claims they aren't Christian. The scriptures used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints include the Old and New Testaments, and sacred books that contain the revelations of their 19th century founder Joseph Smith.

The recent questions about Romney's religion surfaced Friday after a Baptist pastor told reporters after introducing Perry at a forum that Romney was "not a Christian." Robert Jeffress, who made similar comments in 2008, also told reporters that Mormonism is a "cult."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another GOP presidential contender, criticized Jeffress' comments on Sunday, calling them "very unwise and very inappropriate."

"I think that none of us should sit in judgment on somebody else's religion," Gingrich said. "I think he's a Mormon and Mormons define themselves as a branch of Christianity."

Cain and Bachmann appeared on CNN's "State of the Union." Santorum appeared on "Fox News Sunday." Gingrich appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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