November 9th, 2007
04:30 PM ET
14 years ago

Inside Mitt Romney's private pitch to evangelicals

The audio recording provides a rare glimpse into Romney's private efforts to win over evangelical Christians skeptical of his Mormon faith.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - At an invitation-only meeting held Tuesday with students, faculty and alumni of the fundamentalist Bob Jones University, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney put aside questions about his Mormon faith and focused instead on what he described as his shared values with Christians, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by CNN.

Although Romney has often spoken publicly about his efforts to allay the fears of evangelical Christians over his Mormon faith, the audio recording of the event provides a rare glimpse into Romney's private efforts to court the constituency many see as crucial to his presidential bid.

"I get good support from evangelical Christian leadership around the country, you know, despite a difference in religion," Romney told the audience of evangelicals gathered at the Greenville Hilton.

"I think it was Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention who said we're not electing a pastor-in-chief, and so I appreciate that support and just you remember that when you go to vote," he said with a laugh.

The recording, which was done without the knowledge of the Romney campaign or those from the Bob Jones community in attendance, was provided to CNN by an alumnus of the fundamentalist Christian school who was invited to the private meeting, which was described in an e-mail he also provided as "designed to specifically reach out to members of the Bob Jones University family."

Read the entire story and listen to the audio recording here.

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- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Jon, West Chester PA

    Holy Smokes, I hope most of you are not registered voters. The Mormon-hater comments are really disturbing, these are the people that claim to be accepting of others! LOL, Hypocrites!...See its easy just to spout off an adjective.

    November 9, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. jf, Salem, Oregon


    maybe they didn't get any fodder because there isn't any...did you think of that?

    November 9, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. JohnGalt Sturgis, SD

    I'm dismayed at the fact that so many Americans believe in this fantasy called religion. It clearly represents how afraid people are of the void. Don't be afraid, you will return to the same void you remember from before your birth. People will respect each other when you understand that the here, and now is everything. To those who have had a personal conversation with a diety in your living room, there's a mental health clinic near you. GW knows the address.

    November 9, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  4. Dave, Denton, Texas

    Without trying to attack the views of others:

    At one point, Pastor Wilton states "This is not a conversation about a person, it is about a religion that drives a person to do what he does."

    What does Mormonism drive people to do? Pastor Wilton answers this question: "The people of the Mormon religion are very highly astute, highly family-oriented, deeply character-driven people."

    And yet, he says "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."

    Without trying to cast stones, doesn't this seem a little contradictory?

    November 9, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Dave, Denton, Texas

    The church that Christ established was regarded to be a sect, and "everywhere it was spoken against." (Acts 28:22)

    It would be nice if those opposing Mormons could simply agree to disagree.

    November 9, 2007 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. Ron Richey, St. Johns, AZ

    Fact: Romney changed from a position of being effectively pro-choice (by saying that he would not change abortion law in Massachusetts) to being pro-life when faced with the decision as to whether or not to allow human cloning for research. Not a flip flop, but a genuine, heart-felt change of position that landed on the side of life.

    Fact: Romney has always supported equal treatment of gays and lesbians in employment and other aspects of society, but he has always opposed both civil unions and any redefinition of traditional marriage to be anything other than between a man and a woman. He most definitely did NOT initiate "gay marriage" in Massachusetts; on the contrary, he did everything within his legal power as governor to fight against this product of a liberal judiciary. Sorry folks, but there's no flip-flop here either.

    The simple fact is that the "flip-flop" label was manufactured by the liberal media and the Democratic National Committee because there is literally no other way for them to oppose a candidate like Romney who is not only the most qualified person to offer himself up for public service in a generation, but is also above reproach in his personal and business life. In short, they are scared to death of him politically.

    In other circles, the flip-flop label is thrown out as a convenient reason to not support him by those who often are opposed to him because of his religion–but won't admit up to it. For such people, there are usually two reasons for everything–the real reason, and the one that sounds good...

    November 9, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    Bigots who slam other religions and murmur things about Satan are more of a cult than mormons could possibly be.

    November 9, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. Tim, Salt Lake City Utah

    Is believing that God was once a man and that you can become a God with your own set of planets any more strange than God speaking through a bush or every creature and humankind being saved on a boat?

    Yes. Yes it is. And someone that can be deluded into that and other Mormon beliefs should not hold the most powerful position on THIS planet.

    November 9, 2007 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  9. Jackie Rawlings Riverside California

    Mitt will say anything to get to be President. Like other GOP leaders who use God as a front just to be able to continue the criminal crime wave. I guess these GOP candidates think Christian people are stupid and will believe anything. God isn't part of any Government but these GOP Law Makers are using His name. Mitt will fall like his Father did. Mitt thinks he can lie and buy the Oval Office like George W. Bush did. Mitt isn't more Christian then the other GOP candidates as he doesn't think minorities are worth his time. Even God loves everyone regardless of color. Maybe Bush's base will remember that.

    November 9, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  10. jake

    Juan Rivera:
    Where did you get your information from? The "Mormon" church is actually called "the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints." They do believe in Jesus Christ, as the only person who can save them....sounds to me like you need to do some better research before you spout off about things you don't know anything about.

    November 9, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. Terry, El Paso, TX

    Mormon theology may seem strange to non-Mormons, but Christian theology is equally far-reaching in its speculations about where all this came from and why we are here. The psychological and historical processes that created Mormon theology are very similar, surely, to the processes that created Christian theology. The two groups are more similar than they are different, kind of like Shiites and Sunnis.

    What Romney is telling them is that, apart from theology, which occurs only in the minds of men and women, he is like them. That is surely true. Non-smoking, non-drinking, clean language, fidelity to some/any church, regular church attendance, avoidance of sexuality in language and gesture, condemnation of sexual or anti-religious material in art and literature, adherence to majority codes of propriety, do as you're told, think as you're told, and go to heaven is the basic message of both groups. They may quibble over angels' names (Michael or Moroni) and over who exactly will be allowed in heaven, but the Judeo-Christian sects are experts at theological tiffs.

    What is also clear is that if you are NOT Mormon and NOT evangelical, then you are on the outside looking in. Your opinions are not important to either group.

    November 9, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  12. K. Wilkinson Houston,TX

    I would hope that the evangelical community would have the intelligence to endorse Mitt Romney for his obvious qualifications and for where he stands on the issues that are important to our country. To do otherwise is ignorant and verges on relegious paranoia.

    Pat Roberston's recent endorsement of Giuliani for the Republican nomination has made me question the integrity of any real concern over Mr. Romney's relegios beliefs. If evangelicals were really so concerned about the differences in their sects, why would they endorse a man who is so obviously in favor of everything they are opposed to? Is this really just another opportuntiy for the evangelical community to BASH a relegion that doesn't line up with their own? Not a very Christian thing to do. The whole thing makes me question the sincerity and integrity of the evangelical community. To follow Giuliani tells me that your beliefs aren't that important to you after all.

    I know an awful lot of people who are Mormons. They are overwhelmingly good, honest, hardworking people who are Christian despite what the evangelicals think. Isn't the name of their church the Church of JESUS CHRIST? Strange coincidence for people who are supposedly not Christian.

    Mitt Romney has my vote over Giuliani hands down. I don't care what relegion he is. I'm looking for a President, not a preacher!

    GO MITT!

    November 9, 2007 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. hateex-mormonswhothinktheyknoweverything

    Tim Bartlett Buff NY you are an IDIOT!!!

    November 9, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Terry, El Paso, TX

    "As a Bapitst, I am shocked...The SBC clearly has lost its way...I'll pray for them." – John, Columbus, Ohio

    I was raised a Baptist, and I think most Baptists would agree with me that if any five Baptists found a church then by the end of the year two of them would have withdrawn due to the heretical beliefs of the other three.

    November 9, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. Joseph H, Warner Robins, Georgia

    I am a Southern Baptist who proudly supports Ron Paul. He has the most conservative voting record and this is verifiable. Pro-life, Pro-2nd Amendment, Pro-family, Pro-limited government, low taxes, and is one of the few GOP candidates to actually have worked with and received endorsements from Ronald Reagan.
    Ron Paul has the largest percentage of donations from military personnel.
    Ron Paul wants to give you a big raise by eliminating the IRS. At one time, the GOP was for limited government, balanced budgets and no policing the world...those were the good old days. Now we're borrowing from China to pay for the Iraq War and Bush will make sure we're neck-deep in Iran before Spring 2008 if not by the end of his administration. Our children and grandchildren will be saddled with a $9 trillion debt while paying for our Social Security benefits; this is absolutely insane.

    November 9, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  16. Can'tStandIdiots

    How can we have a president that belongs to an cult church that does not believe in Jesus Christ. Instead they worship Moroni (American indian).

    Posted By Juan Rivera, Wichita, KS : November 9, 2007 2:15 pm

    Are you kidding me?? Seriously what is wrong with you people know what your talking about be for you TALK!!!!

    November 9, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  17. Gregg Dearth, New Canaan, CT

    I went to high school with Mitt Romney. It was small enough that I got to know him well. As a Unitarian, I have always been on the opposite end of the religious spectrum from Mitt, yet I can assure you there is no one I have ever known who is more ethical, honest, forthright and capable. I can think of no other candidate for the office who would be a better President of the United States, than Mitt Romney.

    November 9, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. Roger, New York, New York

    Harry Reid = Mormon

    Mitt Romney = Mormon

    I guess that it is ok for a democrat like me to vote Romney!

    November 9, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. M. Engar, Indy, Indiana

    I cannot believe the ignorance of the Mormon faith. All negative comments against the Mormon religion are erroneous. For example, Julia proclaims that Mormon women cannot achieve heaven unless they are married to spiritual men and are reliant upon their husband for their salvation. I suppose Julia has no problem being dishonest about a religion that she knows nothing about. Nice comment Juan about the worshiping of an American Indian. Apparently the name of the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its doctrine of believing that only through Christ can man be saved, is a carefully constructed lie to mask the fact that Mormons don't believe in Jesus and actually worship a Native American. Also, Mormons practice polygamy. It's simply lucky that the millions of Mormons in the US have not been caught and prosecuted for having multiple wives. How about thinking before typing out words on your computer?

    November 9, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. Sarah, Kansas City, MO

    Any canidate who feels that they must go and prostitute themselves at Bob Jones U. in order to get a few votes does not deserve the office of president.

    Also, about flip-flopping. I think it is okay to change your mind about your personnel views. Who hasn't? If you were to go through life without changing your mind on anything then your brain is dead. I see lots of things differently now from when I was younger. But when you change your mind just to buy a few votes that says a lot about your ethics.

    November 9, 2007 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. LB, Franklin Lakes, NJ

    "Roger, you must have been under a rock in the 90s when the Clinton Crime Family (CCF) was being investigated for everything and a family friend commited suicide. Also remember Slick Willy saying he didnt know under oath after he lied under oath.

    Posted By Bill, Bloomington IL : November 9, 2007 2:31 pm "

    Bill, why do you and other Republicans continue to fall back on the Clinton administration? It's back in the past. The Republicans spent millions of our tax dollars trying to get something on Clinton and they couldn't except for a lie he told about him and Monica. Big whoop. He didn't lie and get us into a war did he? He didn't fill his administration with incompetent cronies did he? He created a budget surplus which Bush immediately flushed away. And regarding the suicide, why don't you come up with some proof that the Clintons had anything to do with it? Check out the Bush family before you call the Clintons criminals and stick with what the current administration has been doing and how most of the Republican presidential hopefuls will most likely follow in Bush's footsteps.

    November 9, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. John, Los Angeles CA

    Quite aside from the Romney campaign, I am amazed by the bigotry expressed in many of the postings on this site. It saddens and confuses me that people claiming to follow Christ would fume so much hatred upon the very neighbors he commanded them to love. I have known and associated with Mormons all my life, and have never found anything the least bit cultish in their practices or beliefs. Those of you who have been indoctrinated to believe it is a cult and that somehow that makes it okay for you to broadcast rampant disrespect and hatred need to take a good look inside yourself and ask yourselves why you're behaving this way.

    November 9, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. jon houston TX

    why do so many of you still think there is a difference between any of them?

    the only candidate that is not the same old evil sell out is Ron Paul.

    November 9, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. Samuel, Lincoln, Nebraska

    every Christmas when you are not at work, remember there should be separation between church and state.

    Posted By Bill, Bloomington IL : November 9, 2007 2:53 pm

    Aside from being totally irrelevant, the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state. The Supreme Court has ruled to that what's your point Bill? Are you unAmerican? If you want government sponsored religion move to Iran.

    November 9, 2007 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. Connie, Tn.

    We really need to get religion out of the Presidential race. I want somebody that is fair and tolerant and can work with all people. Religion does more harm than good when you mix it with running the country. All those "Christian Conservatives" are now ready to vote for Rudy. Guess that makes them all liars when it comes to their religion.

    November 9, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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