May 12, 2009
GOP Head Steps Back from Comments on Romney's Mormonism
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has apologized for a recent comment he made that linked Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign to Republicans' concern about
Romney's Mormon faith.
"It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism," Steele told a caller May 8 on a radio talk show when he served as a guest host for conservative Bill Bennett.
The audio and transcript of the portion of the show featuring Steele's comments were posted on Think Progress, the Web site of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
The Republican National Committee responded by telling reporters that Steele considers Romney to be a "respected" part of the GOP.
"Chairman Steele regrets the way his comments have been interpreted," RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in The Hill newspaper. "Chairman Steele believes Mitt Romney is a respected and influential voice in the Republican Party and looks to his leadership and ideas to help move our party and our nation in the right direction."
Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declined to comment on the matter.
But Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told The Hill: "Sometimes when you shoot from the hip you miss the target. This is one of those times."
A 2007 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that GOP evangelicals were the most reluctant to consider voting for a Mormon -- 36 percent -- compared to 25 percent of the overall electorate.