November 16th, 2007
05:02 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney: Anti-Mormon phone calls 'un-American'

Romney's campaign has asked the New Hampshire attorney general to investigate the calls.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called reports of anti-Mormon phone calls made to voters in New Hampshire "un-American" Friday, shortly after his campaign said it has formally asked the state's attorney general to investigate the matter.

"I've seen over the last few weeks more and more reports of e-mails, of literature being passed out, and now push polls which attack me on the basis of religion and I think that's very, very disappointing and un-American," Romney said while campaigning in Nevada.

According to the Associated Press, potential voters in both New Hampshire and Iowa have received anonymous phone calls designed to spread a negative image of the former Massachusetts governor.

Specifically, the calls raise questions about his Mormon faith, and the deferments he received from the Vietnam War because he was doing missionary work in France.

In a statement released earlier in the day, Romney Communications Director Matt Rhoades said the calls were "repulsive."

"There is no excuse for these attacks," Rhoades added. "Gov. Romney is campaigning as an optimist who wants to lead the nation. These attacks are just the opposite. They are ugly and divisive."

Rhoades also said New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, who is a chairman of Romney's campaign in the Granite State, has asked state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte to immediately open an investigation into the matter.

“New Hampshire voters are politically sophisticated enough to see through these types of negative campaign tactics and strongly resent this type of campaigning in our state," Gregg said. "I know Attorney General Kelly Ayotte will see through this case with the seriousness it deserves in a thorough and timely fashion.”

Meanwhile, rival candidate John McCain has also called on the attorney general to investigate that matter and denounced the practice as "cowardly."

"I was a target of these same tactics in South Carolina in 2000 and believe the American people deserve better from those who seek the high office of the presidency," he said.

"I was a target of these same tactics in South Carolina in 2000 and believe the American people deserve better from those who seek the high office of the presidency," he said.

Speaking in Nevada, Romney called McCain's request "somewhat ironic," noting his role in passing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

"That bill limits the contributions very strictly that people can make to a campaign. And you have to disclose who the contributors are and what their affiliations are and so forth," he said. "But the bill leaves an enormous, gaping loophole and says that if you form a 527 or 501c4 you don’t have to disclose who the donors are. They can give an unlimited amount. The result of that legislation you’re seeing played out in politics today."

Spokespeople for both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson have also denounced the calls.

Giuliani Communications Director Katie Levinson said, "There is no room for this sort of thing in politics," and Thompson Communications Director Todd Harris said, "This kind of robo-dial bigotry which tears down Republicans today will only serve to prop up Democrats tomorrow."

Related video: Watch Mitt Romney respond to the calls in New Hampshire

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Iowa • Mitt Romney • New Hampshire • South Carolina
soundoff (149 Responses)
  1. Shiloh S. Chico, Ca

    Religious bigot, Race bigot... its all bigotry, and anyone who says that they would not vot for a President simply because of his religion needs to get thier idiotic minds into a history book and read that many True Americans died for the freedom of religion! If you don't like it go N. Korea, I hear they like telling what you can and can't do.

    November 16, 2007 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  2. Liberal Chic

    Kate, Aurora CO :

    Took the words right out of my mouth. People get so tunnel visioned in religion. It's ridiculous.

    It seems you can't be a decent human being and run a successful Republican campaign. It's too much to see how much of a classy kind of guy Romney is. McCain, too. They deserve better than these disgusting smear campaigns within their own ranks.

    You dummies who think Democrats made these calls - get a clue. What do they care about the GOP primary? They've got their own battles to worry about right now.

    It was either Giuliani or Huckabee. I think it was Giuliani because he's a sleazy sort of guy, though I've not believed him to be a religious bigot. But you never know in Republican politics. They originated the term "Swift-boating."

    My Republican husband thinks it was Huckabee. I can't understand why a man running so far behind would care about one front runner, but he is a crazy social conservative.

    November 16, 2007 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  3. Val Davydov, Agawam, MA

    Come on,CNN. Why was my post removed?

    November 17, 2007 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  4. Ann Western, Winnemucca, NV

    I think that this is all a bunch of rubbish. Shame on all of you. What does it matter what a person believes? A person's personal beliefs such as religion will not effect their judgement. Look at Kennedy he was Catholic and he did not try to convert us to Catholisim. Third if you do not agree with the "mormon" religion fine but you should not hold religion against someone who could well be a good canidate.
    Now I say all this and I am not sure that I agree with all of Romney's beliefs but to be so prejudiced shows a severe weakness of mind.

    November 17, 2007 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  5. Todd, Las Vegas NV

    In response to: The Runaway, err I mean jon gustafson, gun barrel city texas

    Why did you runaway? Lets hear some juicy secrets. What is so Cult Like about this religion that scared you and made you run away?

    Was it the Family Home Evenings? (Now those are scary.)
    Or maybe you couldn't pay a full 10% Tithe?
    Maybe it was the Fast for 3 meals a month? (That is a rough one)
    Perhaps it was the wacky Primary Songs like "I am a Child of God"?
    Or was it those 3 hours of Church on Sunday were just too much for you to take? (Oh the suffering)

    Come on man don't leave us hanging like this. Entertain us with your story.

    November 17, 2007 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  6. M. Stanley, Fort Worth tx

    While I'm in no way a Romney supporter, nor a Mormon, I am dismayed when I read the bigoted comments by folks who are slamming the man for being a Mormon. Since the cornerstone of the religion IS a belief in Jesus Christ, how can you not call it a Christian religion? As another reader posted, how can you dismiss Joseph Smith's "revelations" as being hocus-pocus while not doubting virgin birth, Moses crossing the parted Red Sea, or Jesus' resurrection? The very idea of religion is that it defies logical explanation–you need to have "faith" that these things happened in order to believe it.

    In my way of thinking, those who think that "their" brand of religion is the only valid one are practicing bigotry. I haven't fully resolved my own Christian beliefs in that I should love others while still condemning them for not believing exactly as I should. . .and I find it funny that Christians will condemn Mormonism while finding it also against their nature to do the same to Judiasm, Muslims, Hindu, etc.

    November 17, 2007 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  7. Dale Davis, Glendora, California

    Wow! I can't believe the stone-age hatred from both the ultra-conservative religious bigots and the left-sided secularists. They are both become so far-sided that they eventually meet full circle.

    November 17, 2007 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  8. David, SF Bay Area, CA

    David from Ohio,

    The president's salary is his to do with what he pleases. It's the same for people employed at any level of the government. To place restrictions on what someone on the government payroll could do with his paycheck would be discriminatory. The issue of separation is only relevant in using government appropriations or influence to push a certain religion.

    November 17, 2007 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  9. Dorothy, White Salmon, Wa

    I didn't know Karl Rove was working for a Republican campaign up there in New Hampshire, but it sure sounds like a Karl Rove maneuver. While I wouldn't vote for Romney, it has nothing to do with his religion – just his political party's ideology.

    November 17, 2007 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  10. Maeve

    Wasn't it in New Hampshire that some Repubs. went to jail in the last few years for jamming phone lines of some "get out the vote" groups on election day? 'Heaven forbid,' they thought, 'that some poor and elderly people or people of color should vote! Let's make sure they can't get a ride to the polling place by keeping their calls for assistance from going through!'

    And yes, McCain suffered the same kind of dirty tricks from the Bush camp back during the 2000 thousand election in So. Carolina. When McCain called Dubya on it, Bush just shrugged and said something to the effect of "Hey John. It's just politics."

    This is the normal way of things in the Republican party.

    What a shame.

    November 17, 2007 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  11. mark wilkes barre pa

    no one shoul be pointing fingers at who said it. we need to stop this kind of bull crap politics. just like the comments about obama, these people who use the lowest forms of hatred and bigotry(did I spell that right ?) need to be exposed and dealt with

    November 17, 2007 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  12. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    New Hampshire Republicans are the only ones who have gone to jail for blocking Democratic phone lines on election day ... phone records show 22 calls from the GOP headquarters to the White House on that same election day.

    I might speculate that the calls are from those evangelicals who do not believe that being a Morman is being a Christian.

    November 17, 2007 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  13. Jo, ATL GA

    To David Columbus, OH:

    As bad as it sounds, the cash will be his to do as he pleases. The bad case is the business contracts that will go to his faith guys to enrich themselves. The Mormons are very good at that.

    My issue? How many wives is he allowed to take to the white house or will Giuliani bring all his wives and kids to his first day in office?

    GOP is a bad party.

    Now the Catholic Church is saying its ok for their members to vote for someone that supports abortion???? This just shows they are Republicans and Racist period. They will do what ever it takes to be in power.

    November 17, 2007 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  14. Mac, orlando, FL

    I have no concerns over the Mormon religion as I generally find Mormons to be wonderful people. I have also observed that the Mormon church tends to exert a high degree of influence over their members. I am concerned about that. If this concern is un-American in Romney's eyes-so be it.

    November 17, 2007 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  15. Tari Torch Sweeney, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

    The thing is: What is being done to Romney or any one during the campaigns – negative ads, etc., IS in fact VERY American. That's what is so sad. This is what America has become- look around. What once was "abnormal" is now the "norm." Mitt cannot walk around saying "...this is un-American." Nor can anyone else use that phrase any longer. It's a seriously sad commentary on America.

    November 17, 2007 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  16. David Columbus, OH

    Thanks for the responses everyone. It makes sense, but it sucks..

    November 17, 2007 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  17. Antonio, Tempe AZ

    I expect that this year the candicacies of Obama, Hillary and Mitt will allow Republicans to display a cornucopia of racist, sexist and religious intolerance in addition to their new "Southern strategy" of campaigning against hispanics.

    November 17, 2007 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  18. Chris, Montgomery, AL

    Would someone please ask Romney whether he thinks that is's un-American to discriminate against gays and lesbians?

    He's a hypocrit and a flip-flopper.

    November 17, 2007 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  19. hannah, alpena mi.

    Some of you call Mitt a bigot for his stance on gay marriage, but you can be a bigot and tear into Mitt Romney's religion, right?

    November 17, 2007 09:59 am at 9:59 am |


    November 17, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  21. Tyko, Boise, Idaho

    This is not about religious freedom, it is about church control of its leaders and our government. It is clear to me that the Mormon church and Romney are digging deep into their pockets to buy the Presidency, where Romney would simply be a mouthpiece of the church or face excommunication. We do not want a Mormon in the Whitehouse where the word of the day would be "obedience".

    November 17, 2007 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  22. nathan, Columbus Ga.

    this is very sick, thanks to people like pat robertson, I'm a democrat and will be voting for HILLARY, however Folks need to lay off Mitt's religion, that's his own choice.

    November 17, 2007 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  23. Terry, El Paso, TX

    "Folks need to lay off Mitt's religion, that's his own choice." -nathan, Columbus Ga.

    Religion is not a choice; it is an inheritance. Children of Catholics tend to be Catholic, children of Mormons tend to be Mormon, children of Muslims tend to be Muslim, etc. Of course, there are a lot of Protestants who shop the various denominations, but that is like choosing between Coke and Pepsi: in the dark no one can tell the difference.

    There are a few athiests who become Buddhists, a few Protestants who become Catholic (I'm one. Every time I get a new wife I seem to get a new religion.) or vice versa, usually due to marriage. The partner with less social status joins the church of the partner with higher social status.

    November 17, 2007 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  24. Linda Carpenter, Phoenix, Arizona

    I am sure that Rudy Guliani has some hand in this. He is worse than Bush and Rove and if he is elected, we are in bigger trouble than ever. His right hand man, Bernard Kerick, was indighted last week. Rudy should be next after taking money to put the command center for NYC in the World Trade Center, the biggest target ever because the landlord of the office gave him $100,000 contribution. He did nothing to help firefighter and police...he is a scum and I cannot understand how he is even getting any postitive spin. Of course, he was in a law firm that defended FOX News and will spend his dollars there so they lift him up in the polls.
    Impeach Bush and Cheney now.

    November 17, 2007 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  25. George, Billerica, Mass.

    Gee, the Founding Fathers were pretty smart, seeing the danger of injecting religion into politics and government. I'm glad the GOP's drive to make people's faith a litmus test for running for office is starting to turn against them. This is why it is much better to have a person's religiosity be completely irrelevant when it comes to running the government and hiring the people to do that job.

    November 17, 2007 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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