Mitt Romney made things interesting with a few hours left to go before tonight’s Republican debate by asking his rival, Texas Governor Rick Perry, to “repudiate” a backer who called Mormonism “a cult.” So far, Governor Perry isn’t backing down.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Perry supporter and senior pastor at the 10,000 member First Baptist Church of Dallas, made his controversial comments about Mr. Romney’s religion while introducing Governor Perry at the conservative Values Voter Summit Friday.
“That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult. … Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian,” Dr. Jeffress said.
Dr. Jeffress subsequently stood by his statements in an interview with the Observer saying, “As a pastor, I told the truth. … I am not in some extreme position here, 75% of Protestant pastors do not believe Mormons are Christians and that’s been a historical fact.”
Mr. Romney threw down the gauntlet at Mr. Perry and Dr. Jeffress during a press conference in New Hampshire Tuesday.
“I don’t believe that divisiveness based on religion belongs in this country … I’d call on Governor Perry to repudiate that,” said Romney.
Governor Perry initially responded to Dr. Jeffress’ remarks by saying the pastor “hit it out of the park,” and as of now, the governor doesn’t seem to be giving in to Mr. Romney’s request. Ray Sullivan, the governor’s communications director, told ABC News Governor Perry “made it clear he does not agree with the characterization of the Mormon church.”
“We have addressed that issue and don’t expect any additional comments on that … It is a distraction and unproductive to the debate,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Mr. Romney and Governor Perry will face off in the Republican debate at Dartmouth College in approximately three hours.