Perry avoids questions on pastor's Mormonism remarks
October 8th, 2011
04:49 PM ET
7 years ago

Perry avoids questions on pastor's Mormonism remarks

Orange City, Iowa (CNN) - As others condemn the words of one of Rick Perry's supporters, the Texas governor himself did not want to talk about the brewing controversy while at a campaign appearance in Iowa on Saturday.

Though the Republican presidential candidate openly answered voters' questions about some of his controversial positions regarding Social Security and illegal immigration, Perry would not discuss the political firestorm sparked after prominent Southern pastor Robert Jeffress said Republicans should vote against fellow GOP candidate Mitt Romney because he is Mormon. Jeffress added that the Mormon faith a "cult."

"Governor, do you think that Mitt Romney is a Christian?" a reporter asked Perry after a meet-and-greet with voters in Iowa's western Orange City.

"I think we addressed that issue yesterday," Perry responded.

What Perry said late Friday evening did stand in stark disagreement with Jeffress' words.

When asked if he believes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult, Perry responded Friday: "No. I don't think it is."

But the fact that he did not denounce Jeffress' words outright – and his deflections Saturday on further questioning – could keep the controversy on full boil instead of lowering it to a simmer.

For his part, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, defended religious freedom at a conservative gathering in Washington on Saturday. Just before Romney spoke, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett called Jeffress' comments "bigotry."

Despite his tight-lipped answers on Jeffress' comments, Perry took questions on other issues from voters at the Saturday event.

As Perry worked the small room of voters, one young man asked Perry about his plans for Social Security for young people.

"We have to re-work it," Perry replied. "We've got to give you some options that allow you to have the choice of whether you want the government to continue to operate it for you – or maybe a private account that you control. That makes sense to me."

Another voter questioned Perry on the Texas law that provides in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants.

"You have the young people that are coming in from Mexico, the young college students you are talking about – you give them a free ride to go to college," the woman said.

"My question is about the other young people that are going to college. They have to pay these enormous fees – my son is one of them. There should be some way that they can go free," the woman added.

"It's not a free ride. I don't know where you're hearing that," Perry said.

The governor explained that Texas has long grappled with the issue, given the porous U.S.-Mexican border.

"We had to make a decision: are we going to have tax wasters or taxpayers?" Perry said. "And the people of the state of Texas [decided] that they were going to have full, in-state tuition for those young people to pay. They have to pursue citizenship. At that particular point in time, they would become taxpayers and be part of the skilled workforce."

"No free ride at all," Perry told the woman.

"Well, it sounds like it," the woman responded.

- Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Faith • Mitt Romney • Rick Perry • Values Voter Summit
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. boehnersux

    The Republican party is a cult!

    October 8, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. boehnersux

    Cult, schmult, Mormons, Baptist, Methodist, Catholics, etc etc no difference, they're all believers in myths.

    October 8, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. Dreamer96

    Perry thinking to himself ;

    " Man I told the Pastor..I told him a thousand times, if I told Him Once.. This is not his church he is talking to, so go easy, but did he listen to me....NO, NO, NO, He listened to his intervoice again,.. and I just knew I was in trouble when I saw those crazy eyes of his...OH Brother do I need a big Drink right now, and I sure would like to blow the heck out of something with my 20 gauge shotgun...Man Oh Man...My Jock iitch is back again...OHoHOhOhOho Just look at the blond in the front row...WOWZiee"

    By educating the illegal immigration kids, Perry knows there will be plenty of cheap labor around in Texas, so don't bug him he has a master plan, he just does not want to tell everybody...

    October 8, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. sharon

    aactually all religions are cults. this religious test is getting a little ridiculous now. i want an atheist in the presidency. someone who can think for himself. everyone's pastor should shut up. if they want to jump on the soap box, leave the ministry. it is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    October 8, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. wayne

    Nope, Perry....people want answers to the "rock" and to the "cult". I believe you're as wierd as that Bachmann lady !

    October 8, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. Lao Tao

    As a Buddhist, it gladdens me to see Americans being active Christians. However, I am puzzled as to what religion has to do with being President of the USA. This isn't a theocracy last time I checked.

    October 8, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. tjlnsd

    Yeah; Perry just has other people do his dirty work for him.

    October 8, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. DC from NJ

    The Republicans continue to restrict their political discussions to meaningless issues. This is a textbook case of "Nero fiddling while Rome burns"! Most of us don't want to hear about politicians' religion (or lack thereof, hopefully). Obama/Biden 2012 !!

    October 8, 2011 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. Dreamer96

    Rick Perry thinking to himself;

    " What a mess, wild fires everywhere back home, and who cut the fire fighters budget,...Man Oh Man...and now MegaBlend....No paperwork, local fire cheif mad as heck, now the EPA is going to be crawling up my as$ again, Man I don't care what they do in your own plant, but did you have to have those rail car tankers sitting right there on the plant in the middle of a fire...Hyrochloirc acid...Man that stuff is nasty, The Old man used that to get rid of the remains when we poached deer back home, nothing left, but it does whiten my underwear right up after drinking all night and shooting owls with the old man....BAM and another cloud of feathers....HA HA MAN that's fun...."

    October 8, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  10. Donkey Party

    If you radical extremist fundamentalist GOP-bagging domestic terrorists want a theocracy so badly, move to Iran.

    October 8, 2011 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. Tony in Maine

    It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis was prescient. The only thing he got wrong was the party designations of the demagogues.

    October 8, 2011 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  12. Ron

    Perry, Romney, and the rest of the candidates got themselves into this mess by pandering to these right-wing, bigoted, religious nuts. Now let them stew in it. These people actually say that if you don't agree with them about Jesus Christ, you are not qualified to be President. Whatever happened to separation of church and state? The founding Fathers that they love to talk about would turn over in the graves.

    October 8, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  13. Wanderer

    We will vote the one who put the majority of Americans above God. So Perry and Romney need not to worry about their religious background.

    October 8, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  14. MAngeline

    Perry does the Texas Two-Step very well when he doesn't want to answer the question. He gives a half-answer and dances away!

    October 8, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  15. paparazzinc

    Perry is a coward...... Read more in paparazzinc dot com

    October 8, 2011 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  16. MikeH

    "A religion is a cult with political power".

    Don't remember who said that, but it is 100% true. While I'm no fan of Mormonism, at least their history isn't drenched in innocent blood like Christianity is (with the exception of the Mountain Meadow Massacre where Mormons shot non-Mormon women and children in the face).

    Mormonism also provides a strong social safety net for members who fall on hard times, making it a form of communism much like that practiced by the Polynesians and Innuit, something Christianity doesn't do.

    October 8, 2011 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain

    Parry's avoiding it because he, like all evangelicals, believe that Mormons belong to a cult, but he doesn't want to admit it.

    End of story.

    October 8, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  18. GOP = Greed Over People

    As we have seen from the GOP "candidates" twice now, once when a gay active service member was booed and cheers go up when a young man "dies" without insurance, their silence is condoning.

    So, slick Rick is just "turning the other cheek" of hypocrisy.

    These cons are turning the word "christian" into a slur.

    October 8, 2011 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  19. John

    Rick Perry Is a bigot and a RACIST. And he nothing but a Joke.

    October 8, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  20. Pat in il

    Avoiding questions and giving "non answers" doesn't show me that he has the intelligence, focus, discernment, or courage to be president. It makes me wonder how in the world he got to be governor???

    October 8, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  21. gl

    Perry is sinking fast....from a losing position to begin with.

    October 8, 2011 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  22. bs

    Bigots are bigots.....whether it is against Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Gays, women..........sad but true.

    October 8, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  23. Maine LIberal

    The GOP continues to be exclusive. They dont want you if your not the right christian, not the right conservative, not the right republican. They require absolute dogma and everybody in lockstep.

    October 8, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  24. Krabz

    Perry has a good opportunity to regain some respect from many if he were to denounce the messenger. Unfortunately for him it appears the "fundamentalist Christian" vote of those who might believe that stuff is too hard to pass up.

    October 8, 2011 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  25. MIke smith

    Avoids? Do we need another coward as president ?

    October 8, 2011 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
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