December 16th, 2007
11:20 AM ET
15 years ago

Emotional Romney talks civil rights, slams Huckabee

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Mitt Romney grew emotional during a television interview aired Sunday in which he recalled his family's civil rights legacy and the Mormon church's 1978 decision to allow blacks to participate fully in church rites.

In an interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday, Romney's eyes seemed to fill with tears when he recalled the moment he heard about the church's policy change. "I was driving home from, I think it was law school, but I was driving home... I heard it on the radio, and I pulled over and literally wept," he said. "Even at this day, it's emotional."

He also clarified some of his recent remarks on faith, saying that "for America to be a great nation and lead the world, we must have a religious base," but added that he does believe it is possible for an individual to be both moral and atheist.

The former Massachusetts governor also said that he did speak with leaders of the Mormon church before running for president, but he made the final decision in consultation with his family.

Romney repeated campaign trail statements that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that allowed abortion to remain legal, should be overturned, and said he would love it "if people would welcome our becoming a no-abortion country." He said any new penalties should not punish women who underwent the procedure, but that physicians who performed certain abortions should lose their licenses, or face up to two years in prison.

The former governor, who has made a get-tough immigration policy a central issue in his efforts to win the Iowa caucuses, also repeated earlier calls that workers in the U.S. illegally should have to go home for a period of time before receiving any sort of legal status.

"The 12 million here illegally should be given the opportunity to stay here, but no advantage in becoming a U.S. citizen," said Romney, adding that, "if they had a child, that doesn't mean they all get to stay here indefinitely."

He said that employers who hired these workers should face the same criminal penalties as those who do not pay their taxes, and repeated his calls for a new national employment verification system.

Immigration is a top issue among Republicans in many early-voting states, including Iowa. Polling showed Romney leading in the state until recently, but he is now currently trailing Mike Huckabee in the newest surveys with less than three weeks to go until the Hawkeye State's first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Romney repeated a Saturday criticism of the former Arkansas governor, saying he "went over the line" in a newly-released Foreign Affairs article in which he said the Bush administration had an "arrogant bunker mentality" with regard to foreign policy.

Romney, who is leading in New Hampshire in most polls, faced a snub from his hometown paper Sunday when The Boston Globe decided to back Arizona Sen. John McCain in neighboring New Hampshire's Republican primary. McCain, who won the Granite State during his 2000 presidential run, is second there behind Romney in most recent polls.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Mitt Romney
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Danny Pena, Naples, FL

    WOW! I think Huckabee feels he has the nomination already won which is why he chastised Bush's foreign policy. Huckabee is positioning himself for the general election. There is a deeper message to this story.

    December 16, 2007 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  2. Sam Osias

    If Mitt wants to get people to even listen to him more; and give people across America a chance to know him instead of backing up this dunce, GW, he'll serve himself better. I don't think Mike Huckabee owes Mitt or Bush an apology following his remark unless if Mitt wants to attrack support from Bush's left over supporters.

    December 16, 2007 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  3. Bryan, Folsom, CA

    Charles, your assessment of both Church doctrine and history are both incorrect.

    The most important point I'll clarify here. It was never the position of the Church–though there was much folklore floating around the more ignorant...and evidently it remains–that African-Americans had been neutral in the pre-existence. This was nonsense made up in that strange, obscure way that all folklore comes about. But the nonsense has been snatched up by anti-Mormons and is used as yet another canard by them. Don't continue spreading the nonsense or imputing your cynicism on others.

    December 16, 2007 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  4. Jennifer Gantt

    I for one would never vote for anyone who's religion taught that God cursed the blacks.

    God created EVERYONE equal. It is man and money who created the imbalance. If Romney's church leaders were honestly communing with God since its inception, they would have known this in the first place and there never would have been a ban on blacks in the first place.

    Thank GOD for the government pressure that pushed the church into granting some level of equality. However, has anyone noticed there is no black president, prophet, or apostle of his faith?

    My vote is for equality. If a candidate subscribes or belongs to any religion or organization that has roots in anything but freedom, democracy, and equality, they are not worthy of my vote or my family or children's respect.

    December 16, 2007 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  5. John, NY, NY

    Romney may have been moved when the Mormons decided to belatedly integrate their services...yet he had spent the majority of his lifetime associated with a denomination that actively discriminated. His tolerance for bigotry is NOT what we need in the White House.

    December 16, 2007 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  6. Kim, Peabody MA

    Romney is a LIAR!

    Find out about the the REAL Romney and what he did and failed to do in Massachusetts!

    December 16, 2007 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  7. Al, Dallas

    Just how phony can you be? I guess it took the Mormon religion more than 200 years to consider the simple truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God's covenant was exclusive to the Jewish nation.

    Only after the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ did Gentiles (non-Jewish race) i.e.: Anglo, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian etc... Gain access to the Kingdom of God through the new covenant.

    Yet it took the Mormon Clergymen until 1978 to consider the fact that race has NOTHING to do with gaining access to the Kingdom of God, let alone the Mormon Church. What a shame!

    December 16, 2007 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  8. Running out of hope

    Allegator tears... If this church, no scatch that, religion, was in anyway operating out of the truth of Jesus Christ, they would not have discriminated against blacks or anyone else for that matter. Romans 2:11 of the "Holy Bible" says, "For there is no respect of persons with God." On that note Mormons aren't the only ones who don't seem to understand the truth in God's word. I a thing is true from the start, it'll be true at the end. There is no need to change positions. Now is there?

    December 16, 2007 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  9. Ryan, Oakland, CA


    I would say that most of your comments were actually correct. But I think your perspective of Mormons is skewed by the fact that you live in Utah, and apparently did in 1978. In case you're not aware, Utah Mormons are famous in the Mormon community for being close-minded sheep. (Sorry all you Utah Mormons out there but its true).

    I can say that in California, where I was at the time, and in many other parts of the country Mormons had long only tolerated the Church leaders theorizing regarding the reasons for the priesthood ban. I don't think any Mormons I knew from my generation believed for a second that the ban on the priesthood had a doctrinal basis. My bishop at the time told me straight up he didn't believe it.

    So please don't diminish the joy that many of us felt when the church made this policy change. There were certainly a lot of us who were truly crying tears of joy because we no longer had to deal with the internal turmoil of being part of a church that was still clinging to outdated scriptural interpretations and discriminatory practices.

    And its definitely not true that absolute obedience to authority is required or ever has been required in the LDS church. Certainly actively preaching against the church and its leaders is frowned upon. But simply disagreeing with church leaders has never gotten anyone in trouble with the church. As far back as the 50's there were apostles who held dissenting views on the issue of blacks and the priesthood, so I'm afraid your characterization of Mormon culture at the time is a little off.

    But once again, that probably has a lot to do with your location. Romney, having been raised in Michigan, was probably not the kind of Mormon that you've had experience with.

    December 16, 2007 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  10. Ryan, Oakland, CA


    After a second reading of your comment I'm actually pretty surprised that you felt confident that you knew what was in the hearts of the Mormons around you. In fact, I doubt there's anyway you could know whether they were celebrating the end of an unjust policy or the fulfillment of some obscure pronouncement.

    It sounds to me like you're taking your own interpretation of old, outdated LDS pseudo-doctrines and ascribing that interpretation to the people around you. I don't personally know a single person who took the extension of the priesthood to blacks as an indication that the second coming was imminent. It was never brought up in conversations with any of my LDS friends. It was never touched on in church. Everyone I knew was just extremely happy that the church had come to its senses.

    I would venture to guess that most Mormons had never even heard of the whole "All of adams seed has to receive it first .." theory. They were probably just genuinely happy. Like I said, it may have been different out where you live, but I think it would be really hard for you to know either way.

    December 16, 2007 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  11. Bryan, Fireston, CO

    Romney is still going to get the nomination. Huckabee's talent is shallow, and offers no depth that is worthy of the presidency of the USA. Hopefully the people that have been jumping on his bandwagon see this and will see him for who he is and for who he isn't. Come on, look at the Huck facts:

    * twice as many pardons as the 3 previous Arkansas governors combined?
    * appointing to State posts people that gave him gifts?
    * doling out taxpayer dollars for scholarships for children of illegal immigrants? How can you get away with today?

    Romney is our man. Here's a link that has a good summary of why we need him in office:

    Romney 08!

    December 17, 2007 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  12. Karen Houston TX

    Did you Romney bashers know that not only did Mitt Romney save the olympics which were in debt 300 milion dollars+. But he turned them into such a sucessful venture that their was a 100 million dollar profit!

    Then, to top it off, he returned his salary and worked for free!

    CLASS ACT! Now that is service. What an outstanding man!

    December 17, 2007 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  13. Shawnie Cannon, Grants Pass OR


    You're mixed up on your facts and taking some things out of context. I would let an LDS person explain just what was going through their head and just what was being said in church instead of conjecturing from text taken out of context from 150 years ago.

    We were all excited for the right reasons. Don't forget to mention that the Mormons were anti-slavery and a major part of the reason for the extermination order of all Mormons in Missouri was we were abolitionists. And the prophet Joseph Smith lobbied for proper education of all blacks, so they would get a leg up along with their freedom.

    When you purposely cherry pick some sentences, and leave out others, that is for the intention of creating and manipulating false impressions, and that is the same as lying.

    December 17, 2007 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  14. Michelle D. - Atlanta, GA

    Sorry, but I was in church Sunday morning (where all God-fearing Christians SHOULD be) instead of watching Mitt's meltdown on TV.

    Someone please tell me was he crying because they let black people into his church or because he was happy they did?

    I am sick of this man's "holier than thou" attitude. He has skeletons. They just haven't been found yet.

    I am a child of the 60's who went to private school in Miami because my parents were afraid of all the racial tensions and unrest going on in our city. (And look where that city is now – a complete and totally corrupt banana republic).

    To say I was sheltered is an understatement. But when I turned 18 and voted for the first time, I truly understood what that meant. EVERY American CITIZEN has the right to vote. We are priveledged. If you don't exercise your right to vote, you should be taken out back and flogged.

    Make your voice HEARD in 2008!!!

    December 17, 2007 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  15. Brian

    In relation to how Mormon's taught equality, This is a direct quote from the Book of Mormon, translated 1823. 2 Nephi 26:33 – For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, BLACK AND WHITE, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

    December 17, 2007 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  16. Steve, Kentucky

    I watched the Meet The Press interview with Romney. It was hard for me to believe that a man could completely change his views on so many subjects between 2005 and 2007(2 years). In 2005, Romney was for Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and in 2007 he is only for private funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and so it was with issue after issue. It seemed to me that he says whatever he needs to say to win. -- On a Different subject, it seems strange to hear Southern Fundamentalist Christians attack Mormons for their history of Racism. I grew up in the South during the 1960's. African-Americans could not set a foot in a White Fundamentalist Christian church. Southern Fundamentalist Christians kept their Church supported Universities segregated for at least 10 years after the 1954 Brown decision. -- Joseph Smith condemned slavery while Southern Christian Fundamentalist were defending it. But, Joseph Smith's successor, Brigham Young, condemned abolitionists, and said that Blacks had the mark of Caine, and said that interracial couples should die. I remember White Fundamentalist Christian Preachers saying that interracial marriage was a sin and should be illegal. During the 1950's and 1960's, Mormon Leaders, Ezra Benson and Mark Peterson, and White Fundamentalist Christian Preachers joined in their opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. On women's rights, the Mormons supported suffrage while Southern Christian Fundamentalist tried to prevent women from getting the right to vote.- The point is that no one's church is perfect, and we should get back to a Separation of Church and State, but Southern Fundamentalist Christians have made that impossible. I remember White Christian Fundamentalist Preachers claiming that it was a sin to vote for a Catholic. The only difference between then and now is that JFK said that he believed in an absolute Separation of Church and State, and Huckabee and Romney will not say that.

    December 17, 2007 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  17. Javier, Fort Worth TX

    I wish Romney would be up front with his Mormon theology. His faith speech was nonsense, and he didn't focus on any of the central issues that Evangelicals have with him. For example:

    -Mormons insist in a "plurality of Gods"
    -Mormons believe YWHW was a God on another planet who progressed to God-hood.
    -While the Hebrew Sh'ma lingers in Christian theology Mormon teaching is "As God is man can become. As man is God once was."

    There is a clear distinciton in theology, and I felt he was very dishonest in his speech, and obviously the black people issue has been swept under the carpet for the last few years.

    December 17, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  18. Linda, Albany, NY

    GOP = Religious Reich

    Down with the GOP!

    December 17, 2007 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  19. Brandon Slate, Boston MA

    Ryan, Oakland, CA: Do some research about your religion before you make a blanketed statement. There were scores of talks given from the Mormon pulpits by LDS Apostles regarding blacks and equality, and especially expressing public views contrary to the church's stand. Even on the recent PBS Documentary, Apostle Hunter stated regarding those that speak out "will be disciplined, even if they're right".

    Karen Houston TX: Do some research about how Mitt Romney dragged Massachusetts into a HUGE spending frenzy that left the state with debt. He did nothing but lie his way into the Governors seat (by taking liberal stances and then changing his mind later).

    Mitt was a untruthful governor of my home state and I am ashamed I voted for him the first time. Rest assured I won't make the same mistake twice.

    December 18, 2007 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
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