Lebanon, New Hampshire (CNN) – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to repudiate comments about Mormonism made by Rev. Robert Jeffress, escalating an intraparty squabble hours before the candidates were to meet at a GOP debate.
Taking press questions for the first time since the news broke, Romney was asked Tuesday to respond to remarks by the pastor, a Southern Baptist leader who recently called Mormonism a "cult" and said he believes voters should choose Rick Perry over Mitt Romney, because Romney is a Mormon, and Mormons are "not Christians."
Jeffress made the remarks to reporters Friday after introducing Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. He also endorsed Perry on the same day.
Since the comments, Romney, a Mormon, has worked to keep his message on jobs and the economy. But on Tuesday he said that by not speaking out Perry had effectively condoned Pastor Jeffress' comments and called for Perry to repudiate the pastor.
"Governor Perry selected an individual to introduce him who then used religion as a basis for which he said he would endorse Governor Perry and a reason to not support me. Governor Perry then said that introduction just hit it out of the park," Romney said. "I just don't believe that that kind of divisiveness based on religion has a place in this country."
Conference organizers on Friday said they had selected Jeffress as the introductory speaker to Perry but that Perry's campaign had been notified approximately two weeks prior and had raised no objection.
In his introduction to Perry at the summit, Jeffress called the Texas governor a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, unlike another candidate he did not name in his speech. In a later interview with CNN's Jim Acosta, Jeffress urged voters to elect a "competent Christian" rather than a "competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney."
While Perry has largely avoided questions on the subject, he told reporters in Iowa on Friday he does not consider Mormonism a cult.
And his campaign released a statement Tuesday in response to Romney's comments vowing Perry would keep his focus on jobs and the economy.
"Mitt Romney's comments are a distraction from the fact that Romneycare served as a blueprint for Obamacare," the campaign said.
- CNN Political Correspondent Jim Acosta contributed to this report.
Perry isn't obligated to do that, because he isn't the one who made the comments.
Technically, all religions are cults, by definition, but the pastor's remarks were obviously an attack by one religion on another.
The bar is set kinda low if these two are our best and brightest !
Mtt Romney , five sons , none volunteered for military service !
Rick Perry , the Grand master at this years executioners ball . All proceeds will go to former employes of Enron , just kidding !
Perry should be a man and take a stand, and not run like a scared rabbit. Either you condone what Jeffress said, or you repudiate it. Which one is it?
I think Romney meant "Refudiate" :-)
The GOP is a lost cause.
Mormons believe that black people bear the "Mark of Cain" by being black, and are to be shunned, according to God.
The real cult is the GOBP and its platform of "we care only for the greedy and not the needy."
That’s really rich, asking one Bigot to discredit another Bigot for the same thing..
It never ends!
Ok... so if Romney calls on Perry to repudiate pastor will Perry call on Romney to repudiate Mormonism? How about I call them both out on using Christ as a political tool?
I would agree with the pastor if he had only said vote for "an incompetent Christian ...rather than a more than competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney". And this is a tax exempt organization? Pastor ....Save my soul...But don't tell me how I should vote!
Typical GOP – no idea what the real issues are. They would rather argue about baloney. Idiots.
This is just more political posturing. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have the the same hairdresser, and they both sleep with a nightlight.
What a picture with this story – two sides of the same coin – two middle-aged white guys with styled hair. I guess they represent the GOP – heaven forbid the GOP actually consider a candidate that actually represents the melting pot that is America – black (Cain is technically black but thinks like the white guys), Hispanic, a woman (Bachmann is a woman, but her views are more like the white guys). The GOP – will they ever learn? The country, in just a few years, will be mostly NOT white – it would seem likely that the GOP will then be destined to decades of being out of the White House, since moving them from their unerring tendency to go for the middle-aged and older white guys will be a near impossibility at best.
Glad to see Perry's association with religious zealots come back to bite him in the butt.
This endorsement will have more weight (pardon the pun) than any Palin endorsement as this comes from a Tea Party favorite to a more mainstream candidate.
These GOP hypocrites are amusing. They want Perry to "refudiate" the good pastor, but where were ALL of them when the crowd booed the gay active duty soldier?
Now, I remember, they were all standing on the stage with their mouths on mute.
Silence = Approval
Perry needs to look within his faith. Since Christianity is a center of his political positioning.....He should answer what Jesus would do if he would have thought of Pastor Jeffress calling Mormons "a cult." Would Jesus think the Baptist were the chosen and could speak for him or his father, God? Also, "Would Jesus give tax breaks to the rich or try to sustain the poor with minimum food/shelter?" Also, "Would Jesus blame the poor for being lazy and being a burden on a society?" I don't think God or Jesus would be too happy with Perry or Pastor Jeffress.
Isn't the proper Republican term "refudiate"?