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. popeye47

    To hell with their religion. Give me a honest guy regardless of religion.

    October 8, 2011 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  2. Dave

    When Perry says he doesn't think Mormonism is a cult, he's wrong. When he says we ought to pay for illegals to go to college, he's wrong. Strike two........................

    October 8, 2011 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  3. Linda

    Religion has nothing to do with politics! If only these right wing anti American supporters and candidates could get it through their heads and maybe, just maybe, read about how important SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE is for our great nation they would stop bating people with religious dogma as a test for being an elected official.

    October 8, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  4. JW Cole

    After the remarks Romney's religion I checked it out at After several hours I've decided the Pastor is an idiot therefore Perry can't be far behind. You have changed my mind – Romneyis my man!

    JW Cole

    October 8, 2011 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  5. Hitobito

    Perry has a lot of issues. Social Security: He wants to eliminate it or privatize it (sounds like W to me). 99% of the people in the US have a limited understanding of the equities markets. They would be left with very little by managing their own SS accounts. Take a look at your own 401ks or IRAs if your don't believe this. Perry's quid pro quo fund-raising/cushy state of Texas job is corruption Texas style. His family's N-word problem simply is offensive and racist. Perry simply does not have the intellectual capacity or ability to be President. He is slow and a poor thinker. Obama would eat him alive in 2012.

    October 8, 2011 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  6. Terry Gloege

    Come on Rick, tell us what you really believe.

    October 8, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  7. ufadoof

    What is the difference between a cult and a church of _____? Religious folks are a strange bunch.

    October 8, 2011 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  8. Henry

    Mormonism is no more a cult than is Christianity.

    October 8, 2011 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  9. Mike Buck

    As a sign of reconciliation Perry invited Obama and Dick Cheney to his ranch for a weekend of hunting.

    October 8, 2011 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |

    Typical Perry!! Of course he won't comment. The Pastor is a supporter of his. With friends like that........ Perry is an ignorant, slick, hypocritical shiester!!! Obama 2012!!!

    October 8, 2011 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  11. morpunkt

    This preacher is merely a surrogate for Perry. The malicious pastor makes the claim. Perry denies it. But the damage gets done. Mission accomplished. Wink. Wink.
    Let the truth be known. The preacher industry is BIG business in the Southern Bible Belt region. The more money they lose to other religions like the Mormons, the more poison they spew. The preacher industry of the South is up there with the other money makers, such as NASCAR, college and pro football, Walmart, etc. Get the picture?

    October 8, 2011 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  12. Mariann Pepitone

    I believe religion should not be discussed in campaigning for the presidency. People have the right to choose what religion they want to be. And the public should not bring it up. I am the same religion as Perry and so are my children But there there are more issues regarding running the country thsn religion. I like Rick Perry and intend to vote fof him is the nominee. I cannot understand how he didn't win any straw polls yet. Cain won three and Paul won two. This is going to be a difficult campaign however Bachmann, Santorium, Gingrich should drop out along with Paul as these candidates do not have a chance to win the nomination. Even though Cain is rising it will be aa two man race between Mitt and Perry. I believe Perry is going to be on top again and win.

    October 8, 2011 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  13. Mariann Pepitone

    Cain is too critical of candiates and bashing te president is a lack of respect. I did not vote for Obama but he is our president and we have to respect that. If Cain is that critical what how would he be with world leaders. I switched to republican over four years ago but if Cain wins the nomination I will vote for Obama. Right now Perry is my choice. Obama wns re-election so be it. And candidates should not be critical against each other. They should just say what changes they would make. Obama is not a critical presidet only when it calals for it and Csin should learn from Obama

    October 8, 2011 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  14. Dreamer96

    Rick Perry thinking to himself ;
    " Good thing Christie said he is not running I would have mopped the floor with him,...yeah I was a pretty good wrestler before I became a yell king..uhh those chearleaders.....Yeah maybe I'll just jump on Romney and put him in a head lock at the next everybody just how quick I can move...yeah just wait till he moves his eyes to someone else an POW like a cat, I'll be all over him....that crazy eyed pastor... mormons are in a cult....let him get infront of a camera and BAM, instant Wacky religious babble...OhOHwahahoo Dang jock itch..."

    October 8, 2011 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  15. Frank

    I really have come to enjoy watching Perry get chewed up. And, in case you didn't know it, Rick Perry is a practicing MORON.

    October 8, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Why are we really concerned if someone belongs to a cult or not? The Mormon church is just that, just another church.

    October 8, 2011 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  17. Carl

    Of course Perry will try to distance himself from the BIGOT pastor, while at the same time not denouncing the comment for the sake of the church supporters and hoping that it will drag Romney down. Perry is what I expected from his 2.4 gpa, it does not lie! And Perry calls himself a Christian......

    October 8, 2011 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  18. zanny

    Unfortunately this ignorant pastor represents why Romney will never be President. His religion is why the Republicans keep trying to find someone else because unless they are forced to, they will never run anyone who is not a WASP(white anglo-saxon protestant) Morons like this pastor will come out of the woodwork if he is the nominee.People are afraid of what they know nothing about. You had Palin talking about the President palling around with terrosists last election when she knew it was a lie but that did not matter to her her ultimate goal was and still is to terrorize voters with any information, true or false, that might sway them Fortunately those who think like Palin will never be successful in elections. Those who think like Palin were stupid enough in the last few weeks to still send her money to her PAC. Pitiful!!! NOw she can get on her bus, travel around, pay her in laws wiht her pac money that foolish people sent in. Perry isn't a whole lot better. He will fade away just like the rest and the Reps will be stuck with Romney.

    October 9, 2011 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  19. thomas

    Ask Perry about his relationship with Enron.
    He will avoid that as well !

    Perry / Enron
    Jobs / Jobs ?

    October 9, 2011 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  20. Dr.K.

    Sorry, Perry, but you are reflected in the company you keep. You may not have painted that word on the rock, and you may not have spewed that hypocritical religious venom, but they show all too clearly the place where you are coming from.

    October 9, 2011 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  21. MikeH

    "A religion is a cult with political power". I don't remember who said that, but it is 100% true.

    For a far right Christian cultist like Jeffress to call Mormonism a cult is, well, simple hypocrisy, something mainstream Christianity excels at. True Christians are supposed to pray in a closet and accept those around them.

    With the exception of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, where Mormons killed non-Mormon women and children by shooting them in the face (as evidenced by the skeletons discovered in 1999), Mormonism have been no where near as blood-drenched as Christianity has.

    I'm no fan of Mormonism, but at least they have a strong social safety net to aid members who fall upon hard times (communism much like what the Polynesians and Innuit used to practice). Money-grubbing Christians don't do that.

    October 9, 2011 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  22. Tiller In Texas

    Why is it that no republican can give a strait sold answer??? It's all BS!!!

    October 9, 2011 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  23. Cris

    I'll keep praying for the Mormons to see the light but yes, all Christians know that Mormonism is a cult. I know they are sincere but they are sincerely wrong. The Bible clearly states that there will be no other revelation and that we are not to add or take away from God's Word which is the Bible. Joseph Smith claimed that an angel gave him a new revelation and all I can say is nada, didn't happen. The Mormon faith tries to mimic Christian truth but it rings like a cracked bell. Throw out the book of Mormon, the Bible is the only book to follow.

    October 9, 2011 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  24. amobositsol

    You just lost my vote room for religious superiority

    October 9, 2011 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  25. Kansasjayhawk

    What an idiot.

    October 9, 2011 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
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