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. Rick McDaniel

    Perry isn't responsible for a Baptist radical, even if that radical supports his candidacy.

    October 8, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Consider This

    Coward. He agrees with Jeffress. That's why he hasn't taken a real stand against his remarks.

    October 8, 2011 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  3. demogal

    Squirm, Perry, squirm!

    October 8, 2011 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  4. Bill

    Jeffress hurt Perry in way that no left-wing smear machine could ever hope to accomplish.

    October 8, 2011 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  5. Thinker

    that woman who asked Perry about immigrant kids going to college for free, must be a member of the tea party. How do I know? See how ignorant she is on her question? There is a difference between going to college for free and paying out of state tuition. Our local college costs $10,000.00/year in state tuition. Many illegal immigrants attend it, and they work for their money to pay it.

    October 8, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  6. Charlie in Maine

    You can't hold him responsible for what his pastor said. That would be stupid. Just like it was when the other side complained about Obama's pastor. Now if you decide to not vote for any of them based on what they said themselves that makes sense.

    October 8, 2011 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  7. Sparky Botwin

    He was doing a lot better in the polls until he opened his mouth and started making sounds.

    October 8, 2011 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  8. Taknevs

    Gandhi said "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    October 8, 2011 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. RINO Bil

    Is this how Perry leads, by wussing out on controversial issues?

    October 8, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  10. logic in LA

    His lack of address says he agrees with the sentiment. Once again, this man proves he has no business on a national stage, or even in Texas until he gets his called for secession through. then he and the other Texas crazies can do what they like.

    October 8, 2011 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  11. Pete

    If you go to the Southern Baptist Convention's website, they have pages and pages condemning the LDS church as an evil cult. If you go to the LDS Church's website, you find nothing that condemns other faiths. Seems to me that this in of itself should say a lot. When Jesus was being condemned, He said, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." The Master at turning the other cheek, He did not condemn anyone. Are all Mormons perfect? Heck, no. But generally speaking they are the most tolerant, giving people that I know and they condemn no other faith. Yet people who say they are ministers of God (Jeffress) perform stunts like this? "For me and my house, we will worship the Lord," and we won't listen to people the likes of Jeffress.

    October 8, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  12. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    hmmmmmm.....could this be Gov. Perry's "Rev Wright" moment? I bet the far right won't make as big a deal of this as they did with Obama and Rev. Wright. You just watch.

    October 8, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  13. Nothing new here

    Perry is really messing up – not that I really care, he won't be getting MY vote!!

    October 8, 2011 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  14. normajean

    Rick Perry probably didn't say anything about the Mormon subject because he couldn't get the cowboy boots out of his mouth from the last speech he made!!!!!!! Y'all might want to check how popular he is in Texas before you plan on voting for him..... Those Texans just lLLLLLLLLLLLLUUUUUUUUVVVVVVV {not} ole Perry.!!!

    October 8, 2011 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  15. Redleg

    THis ain't Texas justice, answer the quesitons like a job itnerview (which it is).

    October 8, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  16. marty

    One Texan has been quite enough for this country.

    October 8, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  17. Steven

    A true politician. Do not correct something that may get you votes.

    October 8, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  18. pam jones

    Perry is a coward pure and simple.

    October 8, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  19. edbonfla

    Gov.Perry's failure to denounce the pastor's comments confirms he, too, is a bigot who will do anything to win the nomination. Evangelical Christians need to re-assess who they want leading them, bigots or tolerant leaders - any Church that teaches love, charity, and service to one another teaches what Jesus Christ would want us to be doing.

    October 8, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. Excoastie

    Bottom line is if Jesus had been in Washington D.C. on Friday or Saturday, he would not have been at the Values Voter Conference. Jesus would have be in synagogue with his family observing Yom Kippur. What happened to the American Value of separation of church and state?

    October 8, 2011 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  21. petemg

    No wonder a lot of people dislike Christians. Christians are the first ones to point out others faults. I thought that God was the judge of all.

    October 8, 2011 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. s kel

    come on red neck tea banngers make statments about both losers.

    October 8, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  23. Stephen Buck

    If Perry let's others to continue to speak for him, he is making a big mistake. While he may believe is securing the right wing of the party he is completely losing the center. He and his pastor sound like the worst kind of bigots. A bigot does not a good preident make.

    October 8, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  24. SJ

    Lady, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

    October 8, 2011 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  25. Alex

    "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."

    Could not agree with the man more!!!! And I can't stand him otherwise. If we had this kind of forward thinking on the national level, we'd have a skilled workforce coming ou way.

    October 8, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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