November 16th, 2007
05:02 PM ET
14 years ago

Romney: Anti-Mormon phone calls 'un-American'

Romney's campaign has asked the New Hampshire attorney general to investigate the calls.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called reports of anti-Mormon phone calls made to voters in New Hampshire "un-American" Friday, shortly after his campaign said it has formally asked the state's attorney general to investigate the matter.

"I've seen over the last few weeks more and more reports of e-mails, of literature being passed out, and now push polls which attack me on the basis of religion and I think that's very, very disappointing and un-American," Romney said while campaigning in Nevada.

According to the Associated Press, potential voters in both New Hampshire and Iowa have received anonymous phone calls designed to spread a negative image of the former Massachusetts governor.

Specifically, the calls raise questions about his Mormon faith, and the deferments he received from the Vietnam War because he was doing missionary work in France.

In a statement released earlier in the day, Romney Communications Director Matt Rhoades said the calls were "repulsive."

"There is no excuse for these attacks," Rhoades added. "Gov. Romney is campaigning as an optimist who wants to lead the nation. These attacks are just the opposite. They are ugly and divisive."

Rhoades also said New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, who is a chairman of Romney's campaign in the Granite State, has asked state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte to immediately open an investigation into the matter.

“New Hampshire voters are politically sophisticated enough to see through these types of negative campaign tactics and strongly resent this type of campaigning in our state," Gregg said. "I know Attorney General Kelly Ayotte will see through this case with the seriousness it deserves in a thorough and timely fashion.”

Meanwhile, rival candidate John McCain has also called on the attorney general to investigate that matter and denounced the practice as "cowardly."

"I was a target of these same tactics in South Carolina in 2000 and believe the American people deserve better from those who seek the high office of the presidency," he said.

"I was a target of these same tactics in South Carolina in 2000 and believe the American people deserve better from those who seek the high office of the presidency," he said.

Speaking in Nevada, Romney called McCain's request "somewhat ironic," noting his role in passing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

"That bill limits the contributions very strictly that people can make to a campaign. And you have to disclose who the contributors are and what their affiliations are and so forth," he said. "But the bill leaves an enormous, gaping loophole and says that if you form a 527 or 501c4 you don’t have to disclose who the donors are. They can give an unlimited amount. The result of that legislation you’re seeing played out in politics today."

Spokespeople for both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson have also denounced the calls.

Giuliani Communications Director Katie Levinson said, "There is no room for this sort of thing in politics," and Thompson Communications Director Todd Harris said, "This kind of robo-dial bigotry which tears down Republicans today will only serve to prop up Democrats tomorrow."

Related video: Watch Mitt Romney respond to the calls in New Hampshire

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Iowa • Mitt Romney • New Hampshire • South Carolina
soundoff (149 Responses)
  1. Meghan, St. Louis, MO

    I don't understand how you can go after someone for their religion. For all of you who have posted hateful comments about the Mormon religion, may I suggest that you first learn about it before spreading false ideas that Mormonism is a "cult". Also, I suspect that many of you who have written such hateful things are Christians as well, so I ask you this: How can you call you self a Christian person when you jump to conclusions and tear someone apart just for their religion? Jesus was crucified for saying that he was God and yet many people still believe in him. Just like Jesus was persecuted for his belief, so are the Mormons.
    Secondly, all of you who think its the democrats or the republics who are behind this are very wrong. I can say with much confidence that it was ignorant people just like all of you who judge Romney on his religion. This was nothing more than some people wanting to spread false ideas about Mormonism. I wouldn't be surprised if it was someone who posted a comment on this story. Obviously there are many misconceptions about Mormonism, and many people have such strong hateful feelings towards this religion that promotes loves and charity. Maybe you could all take a page out of the Book of Mormon and learn and thing or two about decency and respect for all people.

    November 18, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. William H. Richards IV, Millis, MA

    I have been a lifelong Republican. I guess my party does not believe in the free exercise of religion anymore.

    November 18, 2007 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  3. Ron Nebraska

    Hey Mitt, did you find it unamerican and come to McCains defense when Karl Roves' push polls in South Carolina inferred McCain had an illegitimate black child? You know that helped get your Republican leader elected right? You people disgust me when you spend your careers following a psychotic philosophy against others and then whine when it gets personal to you.

    November 18, 2007 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  4. William Cormier, Atlanta, GA

    Freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed to all Americans – and even though I don't believe Romney should be President, his religion shouldn't figure into that decision, nor should he be criticized or otherwise be attacked based on his religious beliefs. Last I heard, this is still the United States, and even though our Constitution and Bill of Rights is under attack – those of us that believe in the Constitution should find any such attack as un-American and downright reprehensible.

    November 18, 2007 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  5. Drew, Birmingham, AL

    For those people saying that Romney served as a missionary in France to avoid going to war in Vietnam....Romney left for France as a missionary in '66. The U.S. didn't start drafting until '69. He wasn't avoiding anything. He simply wanted to be a missionary.

    November 18, 2007 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  6. James Disnuke Los Angeles, California

    Why have no one addressed the fact about (very recent in my life time)the Mormons teachings of People of Darker skin was decendant from CAIN (son of the devil was their teachings) and that Blacks were subserviant and second class citizens!!! Not one person has raised this question? Just go to the internet..type in... Mormon/ will pop up!!
    I would like to know what his thinking is on his church (once teaching)... they have since change their position?
    Before...Blacks could not set foot in their holy church in Salt Lake city or be a member of their church..!!. I would like to know his answer for someone is runnig for the president of the .. USA ..
    Thank you,

    November 18, 2007 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  7. Chris, Bethesda, Maryland

    Sorry Mitt. This is what happens when you decide to run in the conservative-evangelical-Protestant-Christian-only club, and now he's paying the price. What goes around comes around, wouldn't you say?

    November 18, 2007 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  8. Dr RaTsTaR Lebanon OR

    Mitt says a man of faith should lead the country. Would he vote for a secular candidate? No.

    He is discriminating according to a person's beliefs.

    The constitution applies to qualifications to run for president. This does not mean we have to disregard someone's beliefs when we personally judge the candidate as a whole.

    If Mitt was not running for President it would be very wrong to dislike him for his religion, no matter what we might think of the religion. He has opened himself to scrutiny by running for the highest office in the land.

    His decisions based on HIS religion will affect us all.

    Would Mormons vote for Mitt if he was a Wiccan? I think not.

    Can any Mormon on this board say they are NOT voting for Romney? Hmmmm?

    Mormons for Hillary, anyone?

    Google Mormon military. Most interesting history of the Mormon "religion". Very ugly stuff.

    Educate yourself. There is nothing "unconstitutional" about learning the truth. Being informed is a duty.

    Dr. RaTsTaR, Viet Nam Era Veteran, 72-'76, two SE Asia deployments.

    November 18, 2007 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  9. Brad Johnston, Marlborough, NH

    I'm totally against push polling. I hated Bush/Rove for years before the President's approval rating went down precisely because of the dirty tricks played on McCain in that way in South Carolina. Still, as someone who grew up in Provo Utah, as a Mormon, I do think the nation really should know more about the LDS Church before casting a vote for Romney. I dropped out at 18 because the more you learn about that church, the stranger it gets. Sorry, but that's just my perspective. Does the average voter know that Mormon's believe that God consideres all other religions "abominations"? (Mormon's believe He used that very word to describe all other religions when he told Joseph Smith to found a new church in Western New York.) Does the average voter know that one of the key sayings of the Church is "every member a missionary", meaning throughout one's entire life, one is expected to try to convert others into Mormonism. The saying isn't "every member except the President of the US should be a missionary," it says "every member a missionary." What does that mean to Romney? Does he bellieve it? It's a fair question.

    November 18, 2007 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  10. Diana, West Texas

    To David in Ohio...I don't think Romney (or any other candidate) choosing to tithe from his/her presidential salary constitutes federal support of a religion unless we are willing to check the religious contributions made by every person receiving a salary from federal funds. My salary comes from federal funds and I tithe to my church, does that constitute federal support of a religion? I think all the attention on Romney's faith is an insult to all Americans of faith and our system as a whole. No one questions the faith of his WASPy counterparts. The man has stated that his religious beliefs are personal and we should allow them to remain personal.

    November 18, 2007 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  11. r.e. lowe allons, tn

    mitt romney you said you would puniah states for giving illegal aliens driver's license and tuition that all good but mitt you are be-hind g.w.bush has punish all the American people we need a change I'm voting for a democrat i sure mis old bill clinton

    November 19, 2007 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  12. Derek, Greenfield, MO.

    Being myself a Deist and of no outlined model of worship, I take concern at the state of current politics which wittnesses men in control of this Nation being controlled in life and thinking by their religious sect. I believe strongly in a man's right to worship in the manner he think right, and I hold equally strong convictions opposing mens religious perferments controlling his mind and controlling his decisions. That being written, this is nothing new to politics, Republican or Democrat, review your history and note President Kennedy's battle against the bigots who opposed a man of Catholic faith in the White House. Last note, to those bloggers ignorant enough to think that bigotry, racism and prejudices singularly exist in their own personal sphere, evolve your minds to fight for the cause and not the group.

    November 19, 2007 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  13. Diana, West Texas

    In response to Victoria from Australia...The US has always been a nation of religious discrimination, starting with the Pilgrim landing in Plymouth in 1620. Yes, the Pilgrims made their voyage in order to have the freedom they sought to practice their brand of Christianity. A brand of Christianity that they viewed to be more pure than that practiced by adherants to the Church of England back home. Why? Because it had fewer Catholic influences. Those people were as intolerant of other religions as they experienced intolerance in England. Many of our American forefathers actively persecuted members of religious sects/denominations that were different from their own. Evidence: the exile of Anne Hutchinson, the hanging of Quakers as witches, the exclusion of Catholics from most colonies. Freedom to practice our own brand of religious persecution is the foundation of the US.

    November 19, 2007 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  14. Buddy Miller, Metter, Georgia

    After what the Bush Republicans did and allowed to stand in 2000 against McCain's "Black Baby" accusation and in 2004's Swiftboating incident against Kerry, it hardly surprises me that Faith has become their new low life whip to beat down Mitt Romney. From what I've read in the CNN reports on the subject, I'm surprised Romney doesn't explain to us where the untruths are what is being said. Is this the party of values? I think not.

    November 19, 2007 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  15. Todd, Minneapolis, MN

    Unlike most of the major religions of the world, Mormonism must be an issue when politics are involved, especially when talking about the Presidency. Do you really want someone leading this country that believes:
    – they will be a god in the afterlife?
    – he is a member of the "only true church"?
    – in the last days, the US Constitution will "hang by a thread" and that the Mormon Bretheren will save it?
    I could run up a list for hours, but I'll stop here.

    November 19, 2007 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  16. Eric, Las Vegas NV

    Attack Mitt all you want, I am Mormon and as of right now he does not have my vote. But to attack the religon becuase you don't like the candidate is off base. Most of the anti-Mormon rhetoric found in these comments are in-accurate and hatefull.

    November 19, 2007 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  17. James, Baltimore, MD

    Thanks for the laughs from you anti-mormon posters. "I will never vote for a mormon for president". don't worry. one day this country will totally lay the Constitution to waste and family valuse along with it. where will you turn. I can already see it. but you can't.

    November 19, 2007 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  18. Qasim, Houston , TX

    The calls are unamerican, so is Gitmo, Mitt. You asked gitmo to be doubled, I ask the both be outlaws.
    Somday when a Muslim stands for election and this happens. I am sure all the candidates including Mitt will denounce it then.

    November 19, 2007 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. kathleen, scottsbluff, NE

    Can anyone be certain that Mr. Romney's people didn't do this for the free publicity and for the "sympathy" vote–you know, "Poor Mitt, people are picking on him. I think I'll vote for him to show him I'm a good American."

    November 19, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Diana, West Texas

    Are Mormon beliefs any more absurd or hard to comprehend than mainstream Christian beliefs? Do we want a President who believes that:
    1. He/She is not of this world?
    2. He/She is able to speak in another language that is a more direct link to God?
    3. Jesus Christ was conceived through supernatural means and brought into the world by a virgin mother?
    4. Jesus Christ died, battled Satan, and arose from the dead?
    5. Jesus Christ walked on water?
    6. Jesus Christ was responsible for the miracles described in the Bible?
    7. Lot's wife turned to stone for disobeying God?
    8. A shepard boy killed a giant with just a sling shot and some flat stones?
    9. The collective efforts of the Israelite army brought down the walls of Jericho?
    10. God spoke to Moses via a burning bush?
    11. The list goes on and on and on.

    November 19, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Joe, Boston, MA

    I'm not a Romney fan and feel that he totally switched his social views from when he was Governor of my state to now running for President.

    But besides that I don't think his religion should even be a part of this election. He's a decent guy and a good family man.

    People should just view him on his record not on his religion.

    I'm honestly surprised that people won't vote for someone based on sad!

    2004 election it was abortion and gay people. 2007 election is now going to be religion and immigration. What about the real issues??!!!

    November 19, 2007 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. Chris Tucson, AZ

    Isn't it fascinating that when Democrats attack Republicans it is called "challenging them on the issues". But when Republicans do it to Democrats it suddenly becomes the "Republican Attack Machine". Let me just rename that, "Double Standards".

    November 20, 2007 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. DB

    If people think the attacks on Romney for being a Mormon from the Conservatives are bad, just wait until he's the nominee and see what the Liberals will do to him!

    November 20, 2007 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  24. rebecca argyle

    If any other candidate was treated this way, there would be an immediate investigation! especially if he was a person of color. this is ridiculous. The phone calls regarding religion and the book of mormon the religious doctrine are an outrage! History showed past presidents were of different religions but they didn't have aggressive polling firms at their fingertips and candidates cordinating tag team take-outs. Investigations should be swift and severe!

    January 4, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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