Rock Center | January 09, 2012
>>> good evening. the voting in new hampshire begins in a matter of hours. the front-runner is mitt romney , considered the favorite. owns a house in the state and he was governor of neighboring massachusetts. the people of new hampshire decide if they're giant killers or help propel the next nominee of the gop. romney is taking fire from fellow candidates today talking about health care insurance providers. he said he likes firing people, and then his people spent the rest of the day explaining what he meant. whatever the primary outcome, romney is cemented now as the national figure, and we're going to learn something else about him here tonight. it's about the romneys of mexico . his family members who are mexican citizens and how fascinating this story of how this family came to be as mike taibbi tells us tonight, it's all part of romney 's roots.
>> this is romney country, horse and cattle land, rich valleys checkered with cotton fields and rolling peach and apple orchards, small towns with john deere , coca-cola and chevy. they value the traits many attached to the candidate they see as the inevitable republican nominee. a candidate even the high school kids are excited about. who would vote for mitt romney for president?
>> me, me.
>> this slice of romney country is in another country, mexico . the voices cheering the loudest for mitt romney are mormons like mitt, and they're mormons named romney . it's a little known fact there's a whole branch of mitt's family in mexico including his second cousin, layton romney .
>> i think he has a good chance of getting the nomination.
>> layton is only one of 40 romney relatives here descended from religious pioneers that arrived in 1885 . mitt has said and written almost nothing about them over the years. one of his rare quotes, that they left the u.s. to escape persecution for her religious beliefs . great-grandfather led that first expedition to escape not persecution but prosecution for polygamy, what mormons called plural marriage. his fifth wife later followed in her own harrowing covered wagon journey. it was the union of miles and han than that planted the romney family tree in mexico . down one branch mitt's grandfather and his mexican born father george , later a two-term michigan governor that ran for president in 1968 and asserted because both his parents were american born , his birthplace didn't matter.
>> there's no question of me being a natural-born citizen.
>> as the revolution broke out when he was 5 years old, his parents moved back to the states to avoid the violence and mitt was eventually born in michigan. the other branch of the family leading down to mitt's cousins, layton , mike and meredith stayed behind, their numbers growing. but they don't know mitt, and mitt and the media army now shadowing his every move don't know them, not yet.
>> i don't think it will bother us too much down here. we're isolated from the rest of the world .
>> for now the romneys of mexico enjoy pleasant and productive lives in two remaining settlements just 175 miles south of the border . most of the romneys, dual citizens, and proud of it. who do you say yourselves as? mexican? american? combination of both or what?
>> i guess it would have to be a combination. i can sing both national anthems and tear up at both of them.
>> they form a sleepy oasis of homes and green lawn, the thriving century-old school and a gleeming mormon temple overlooking it all in the shadow of the mountains. the romneys over the generations didn't just establish good lives for themselves and their families here. they pursued lives of good in their mexican settlements. good jobs, most of them at layton 's fruit and produce operation called pacame. the company is one of the two biggest employers with pickers and sorters working at several different facilities, more than 6,000 people, locals employed. good old american capitalism at work in mexico . the valley the romneys call home has not escaped the plague of violence that has scarred so much of the country. during our visit through drug gang-related murders made the local front pages, nothing extraordinary in northern mexico . the romneys know the dangers all too well. two years ago layton 's brother meredi meredith , a cowboy and cattleman here was kidnapped at gunpoint and held hostage in a cave for three days until a ransom was paid.
>> men came out with guns in their hands. i told my wife, be careful. something's going down.
>> it didn't make big headlines then, but if it happened with mitt as the nominee or president, it would be a huge story. down here it's a story that remains a part of the romney lore. carlos is a family friend and fellow mormon . he says he admires the romneys he knows.
>> they're honest, hard-working. there's nothing they won't do for you.
>> a terrific family nielsen told us with an inspiring history in mexico , the romney he doesn't know has publicly ignored.
>> has he forgotten where his roots are at? he needs to look back and be reminded where his roots are at.
>> it's the romney family 's roots and the mormon religion that remain controversial in mexico as in the u.s. local catholic pastor garcia says there's mutual respect between the religions but -- do you consider mon mormons christia christians? no, we don't. they don't follow the fundamentals of the christian fate. north of the border a baptist preacher went further.
>> mormonism is not christianity. it's always been considered a cult.
>> the cult statement and reaction to it led the news
>> an explicit attack on mitt romney .
>> his religion is drawing attention.
>> those strong and persist ant anti- mormon sentiments led to the faith in america message four years ago.
>> i do not define my candidacy by my religious. i will serve no one religion, group, one cause, no one interest.
>> occasionally mitt's tried that distrust. here a 2006 radio show quip referencing polygamy.
>> a relationship between a man and woman and a woman and a woman and a woman. i'm just kidding of course.
>> for the most part he hasn't discussed his religion in detail. should he have a right of privacy.
>> everybody has a right to hold things they deem sacred and not talk about them.
>> layton 's brother meredith knows if mitt wins the nomination the mormon faith is a headline issue again.
>> it shouldn't be but will be.
>> meredith says a close look at mormonism tell m tells a good story.
>> we believe in god and jesus christ as our god and savior.
>> cousin mike, a church school administrator here, says mitt should just tell the whole story, even about the family's polygamist past that died with the great-grandfather.
>> it's written in his great-grandfather's diaries and out there for anyone to see. it's an open issue. there's no reason to hide it or cover it up. there's no reason to dodge it.
>> until and unless mitt romney connects with his mexican roots, this place will remain as its been, a thoroughly pleasant place on one level where friendly high school kids from cattle country are happy to show a rare visiting reporter how to use a lasso, even on his producer, who probably didn't enjoy it as much as everyone else. but if cousin mitt gets to the white house or becomes the nominee, there's likely to be a media invasion a cowboy would find intolerable. then what?
>> leave me on the ranch and leave me alone .
>> i don't think that will happen if he gets the nomination.
>> it may not, but then they're going to have to be pretty fast to catch me.
>> the final days of a presidential campaign especially in the new media environment, the 24/7 press attention that no one can evade for long. what if that avalanche rumbles layton 's way?
>> if that's the case, we have to switch our vote.
>> you may be the last american welcome down there. mike, a fascinating story. aside from the political science angle, george romney 's citizenship status and whether that would have sur soovived a challenge, the issue is immigration.
>> obviously, they have a different point of view than does candidate mitt right now. he's in opposition to the dream act and supports a border fence , and his cousins say that doesn't make sense at all. there has to be a way because it's important to people find a way to work, and they don't think their cousin has the right point of view. that's a big issue.
>> couldn't you make the case the family tree is an aspect of the dream act ?
>> absolutely. his father could be the poster boy for the dream act .