October 24th, 2007
05:30 PM ET
13 years ago

Romney loses prominent evangelical endorsement

Romney lost the support of a prominent South Carolina minister.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Dr. Don Wilton, the former head of the South Carolina Baptist convention, recanted his endorsement of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney Wednesday, just days after announcing his support.

The Romney campaign has touted Wilton's endorsement, along with that of Bob Jones University president Bob Jones III, as signs that evangelical leaders in South Carolina were putting aside reservations over Romney's Mormon faith and siding with the candidate based on his family values.

In a statement released by Baptist News, a Southern Baptist publication, Wilton said he made a "personal mistake" and that, until now, he had never endorsed a presidential candidate.

"While I did give my consent to the local campaign to use my affirmation of the governor's stance on family values in my capacity as an individual citizen, I made the mistake of not realizing the extent to which it would be used on a national basis," Wilton said in the statement.

He added that: "I will continue to use my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as the only standard by which I determine who to vote for in any election."

When Wilton endorsed Romney on October 19, the campaign issued a statement from Wilton saying, "While we may not agree on theology, Gov. Romney and I agree that this election is about our country heading in the right direction."

On Wednesday, Romney spokesperson Kevin Madden said he respects the decision.

"Rev. Wilton is a great leader in the community and we respect any decision he makes regarding his involvement with the campaign," Madden said.

In an interview with CNN in February, Wilton discussed his views of Mormonism.

"All politicians are people of deep and abiding personal conviction. I can tell you Governor Romney appears to me to be a man of deep and abiding conviction," Wilton said in the interview with CNN. "I would say that we need to sit down and enter into a dialogue with Gov. Romney, the same way we would enter into a dialogue with anybody who is running for that political office. On a personal level, Mormonism does make me nervous, because I am a Christian, and because the precepts and principles, and more importantly, the practices of Mormonism have cause for great concern."

"But I am going to tell you this. The people of the Mormon religion are very highly astute, highly family-oriented, deeply character-driven people. They are very fine people. This is not a conversation about a person, it is about a religion that drives a person to do what he does," he added.

Wilton went on to say he would want to explore the religious background of any person running for president that participated in a religion different from his. Wilton was the only religious leader in the Spartanburg, South Carolina area that was willing to speak on camera with CNN in February about the potential difficulties Romney may face in that Southern evangelical community.

Even though Wilton’s statement retracting his endorsement indicates the pastor did not know how much play his words would get on the national stage, it’s worth noting the pastor and his church boast quite a savvy media operation. An in-house multi-camera set-up shoots and broadcasts church services via TV, radio and the Internet, and there is an employee who holds the title Minister of Media.

- CNN's Peter Hamby and Sasha Johnson

Filed under: Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    It's embarrassing how many religious zealots are out there in this country. I'm so sick of this nonsense, as are most eductated people. Who cares what some evangelical right wing jerks think?

    October 24, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. Anonymous, Denver, CO

    Another classic example of why religion has no place in politics. The founding fathers, wisely, said their should be a separation of Church and State. I'm not a Romney fan, but he is entitled to his religious beliefs like everyone else. AND who the heck cares what the evangelicals think? They are a bunch of hypocrites – just look at Pastor Haggard in Colorado ( who preached against homsexuality while paying for sex with a male prostitue) and that hate-spewing bigot, James Dobson of Focus on the Family who wants power and will use whatever emotional maniuplation he can to acheive it. Shame on them both.

    October 24, 2007 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  3. Tim Williams, Katy Texas

    Dr. Wilson is such a flip-flopper!!

    October 24, 2007 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |


    October 24, 2007 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  5. Sam, Fairfax, VA

    For chrissakes, Mr. Romney, just GO AWAY, you freak.

    October 24, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. Todd, SLC, UTAH

    Re: Kerry, Lexington MA

    You are comparing apples to oranges – I should find the falacy you are committing a post that.

    But, for now, or in 100 years (which ironically has been about the same about of time that brother Joseph dreamed up his book), the Christian faith will share the same opinion about mormonism.

    The greatest disparity in your comparison, is that the gospels of the apostle's (Mathew, Mark, etc) were proven to be true.

    Now, since the LDS faith was established some 100 years ago, its main text has been proven to be false. Let's not forget that the Book of Mormon preaches that the American Indians are the first mormon's and are of Hebrew linage. However, recent DNA studies have proven that the American Indian linage is from Asia. Need proof? See: http://www.lhvm.org/dna.htm

    October 24, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  7. Angela, Cleveland, OH

    Why would anyone care who any religious leader supports. Church and politics needs to be so much more separate. I would not vote for anyone based on a recommendation of a religious leader.

    October 24, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. Chuck S., Pendelton, OR

    "For most people who have posted thus far: ...You all make me violently ill. ... How can you disobey the teachings of Christ so flagrantly? " Violently ill? You got a problem. What's next, violence? Look around you. Not everyone is Christian. Learn tolerance, and to love thy neighbor as thyself, not to get 'violently ill' over differences.

    October 24, 2007 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Marlon, Nashville, TN

    Apparently, we haven't we learned our lesson from mixing politics and religion (see outcome of last two presidential elections). Why don't we just go to a church-state.....just like.....those in the Middle East....and 1600's Europe. Either that or tax the preachers who play politics. Churches need to focus on TEACHING morals and values so we'll have people & politicians who PRACTICE good morals and values – rather than trying to IMPOSE "Morals & Values" on those that they missed because they were playing politics.

    October 24, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  10. Roberta, Sarasota FL

    The one who looks bad here is Dr. Wilton, not Mitt Romney. As a Christian, I am embarrassed by other so-called Christians who make the most unkind and unflattering remarks about Mr. Romney and his religion. Ignorance is just as powerful as a knife or gun, and the national display of ignorance, lately, is a phenomenon to behold. I have no doubt that Mitt Romney would serve the U.S. just as faithfully as Mike Huckabee, just as faithfully as Rudy Giuliani, just as faithfully as Joe Lieberman if he were running. I may not agree with the politics of these individuals, but I do not doubt their intentions to serve the country in a way that would not allow their personal religion to influence or interfere. I remain, in the meantime, embarrassed by my fellow Christians who launch verbals attacks on Mr. Romney.

    October 24, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. spraynardkruger


    October 24, 2007 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. Chuck S., Pendelton, OR

    Amen, Marlon!

    October 24, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. Kenneth, Greenville NC

    Don't listen to anything said Mormons aren't Christians they worship Jesus but also believe Joesph Smith was a prophet who mysteriously read a lost gospel from gold tablets in a hat. Also they believe that Jesus and the Hebrews lived in America and that the natives that were here were "evil" people. Also wearing undergarments with supposed "magic protection" underneth your real underwear is a bit cultish wouldn't you say?

    October 24, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. Bill, Boston, MA

    Am I mistaken that non-profit organizations with tax-exempt status are restricted from political lobbying? It is amazing the level of news coverage on these endorsements when, by their nature, they run in conflict with the law.

    October 24, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. Todd, SLC, UTAH

    To Marlon:

    Good point! Churches/religions should teach its followers how to behave.

    A good example is how the LDS faith teaches that PROCHOICE is acceptable.

    No wonder Mitt had no problem being blue in MA., but now wants to be red.

    With such flip-flopping on the political issues, the ticket should be "Kerry-Romney 2008"

    October 24, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  16. bob, garden grove, ca

    mormans are not Christians!

    October 24, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  17. Stephen, West Columbia, South Carolina

    I will be a student at Bob Jones University beginning in January and I've already said this once but Bob Jones III is NOT the President of our university. He retired several years ago and is NO LONGER President of our university. Please make a correction! Stephen Jones is the President, not Bob Jones III.

    October 24, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. ETM

    So Romney lost the endorsement of a right-wing evangelical leader.
    Now if only America could lose all the right-wing evangelical Christians.

    October 24, 2007 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. Melissa, Los Angeles, CA

    Uhhh WHO CARES! Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? And all you Mormon haters out there need to get over it. How are they hurting you? You may not agree with their beliefs but that's OK. That's why we live in America where we can all believe what we want. The hate on this board is really a statement of how screwed up this country is.

    October 24, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. Vic Reno, Nevada

    Romney is not Presidential material. But then look who's in the office now...what an embarrassment.
    Don't let anyone fool you, the Mormons stick together like glue. If you think this administration is packed with perverted pedophiles and cronies, you ain't seen nothin until you look into some of these holier than thou Mormons.
    It's the ones who profess the loudest about their morals and the lack of MORAL LEADERSHIP (Mormons or others)...it's those creeps that are caught in the men's room diddling around or the likes of Mark Foley the molester of Congressional Pages that shout their MORALITY from the rooftops.
    Send em all to Iraq. Every one of these REPUBLICAN, DRAFT DODGING HAWKS. You can bet the farm that they were pooping their collective pants at the thought of Viet Nam, but today those same cowardly deferment hogs demand more money and troups in Iraq.
    George W. Bush was and is the biggest coward of all yet he has no problem ordering the blood of our finest to be spilled in that sand trap on the other side of the world.
    What a bunch of loosers.
    Don't even get me started on the 'country's Mayor'!

    October 24, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  21. JGM, Seattle, WA

    No surprise there. The truth will out!
    Especially regarding long hidden secrets just ask Larry! Onward...

    October 24, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  22. ETM

    For those of you arguing the merits of various Christian sects, all of them are based on myth.
    No, Jesus did not rise from the dead, and, yes, Joseph Smith was a fraud.

    Now stop praying to totem poles and try giving reason a chance.

    October 24, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  23. Todd, Las Vegas Nevada

    I think this hurts Wilton more then Romney.I think this speaks volume about Dr Wilton. We have learned from Dr Wilton's recant, that he will support someone in secret so to say. But is embarrased and weak to stand up and support out in the open, fearing he may offend someone or some group. Sounds like a small man to me. I would be fine if supporters like that fell off the bandwagon.

    October 24, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. summus

    You will all see the light and except Joseph Smith as the truth.

    October 24, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. ETM

    Let's keep religion completely out of politics. When they are mixed, both are corrupted.
    In any event, Romney is as phony as a three-dollar bill, no matter what his religious beliefs may be.

    October 24, 2007 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7