April 23rd, 2012
09:34 PM ET
11 years ago

Montana governor defends 'polygamy' remarks regarding Romney's heritage

(CNN) – Montana's Democratic governor defended himself from criticism Monday over remarks he made last week that appeared to tie Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, to the practice of polygamy within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" he was trying to point out Romney struggles in connecting with Latino voters when he claimed Romney's "family came from a polygamy commune in Mexico" in an interview with The Daily Beast.

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"People are taking this far away from where I was discussing," Schweitzer said. "I was saying that Mitt Romney currently has a problem with Latino voters. And it is ironic that his father had come from Mexico. You could think he could embrace his Latino roots."

Some Mormon families moved to Mexico in the 19th century to escape religious persecution in the United States, and many men who moved had multiple wives. The LDS church outlawed polygamy in 1890, but men with multiple wives were able to escape prosecution by moving across the border.

Romney's ancestors settled in an area 180 miles south of the Mexico-United States border. The candidate's father, George, who served as governor of Michigan and ran for president in the 1960s, was born in 1907 in the Mexican town of Colonia Dublan, in the state of Chihuahua. Neither Romney's father nor his grandfather were involved in polygamous marriages.

There are still about 40 members of the Romney family living in Colonia Juarez, some of whom are the presidential candidate's first and second cousins.

In the interview with The Daily Beast, Schweitzer made a point to say he wasn't connecting the candidate Romney to the practice of marrying multiple wives.

"I am not alleging by any stretch that Romney is a polygamist and approves of [the] polygamy lifestyle, but his father was born into [a] polygamy commune in Mexico," Schweitzer said, according to The Daily Beast.

Romney responded to the Montana governor's remarks, saying in an interview on Fox News: "My dad's dad was not a polygamist."

He continued, "My dad grew up in a family with a mom and a dad and a few brothers and one sister. They lived in Mexico and lived a very nice life there." He explained they left the country at the start of the Mexican Revolution.

In Monday's interview with CNN, Schweitzer said people misinterpreted his remarks to be anti-Mormon.

"People took it way off base," Schweitzer said. "I didn't say anything about any religion. As you mentioned earlier, the Mormon religion hasn't accepted polygamy in 120 years. As I said before, Mitt Romney or his family that I know of doesn't accept polygamy today."

Schweitzer said his point was about a "hard right turn" Romney took when discussing immigration during the GOP presidential primary.

"His opponents were criticizing him because he was saying if you're an 85-year-old grandmother and you didn't have all of your I's dotted and T's crossed, and you're a great-grandmother in the United States, you should self-deport," Schweitzer said, referring to a remark Romney made at a Republican presidential debate in January.

Ralph Reed, founder of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, said Schweitzer was waging a quiet effort to discredit Romney because of his religion.

"When you bring up something like this and then the Obama campaign is saying he's weird and secretive, this looks like whatever your motive or intention was, it looks like a deliberate attempt to engage in a whisper campaign to turn voters off from Romney because of his faith," Reed said on CNN.

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Filed under: Mitt Romney • Religion
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    As you mentioned earlier, the Mormon religion hasn't accepted polygamy in 120 years.
    Umm, yeah, but didn't you just say that, and I quote:
    "Romney's "family came from a polygamy commune in Mexico"?

    While I personally couldn't care less whether he was a Mormon or a Gargoyle I have to tell you this whole religion thing is going to be an albatross around his neck. He is lucky that he is going against a classy guy like our President who is not going to dwell on this, and not some muck-racker, rabble-rouser like McCain, Palin, or...himself. Yet I feel pretty certain that there are those that will bring it up if only to watch The Changeling squirm and try to flip flop his way out of this one.
    Obama 2012. Because Robmey is not going to make it.

    April 24, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |

    I've always said that Willard was the resl life version of the character from HBO's series BIG LOVE. I'm not voting for Warren Jeffs for President.

    April 24, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |

    I'm not voting for a mormon for President. Period!!! It's not even one of the top 3 religions. I don't see a mormon church in Jerusalem. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Really? What "Latter Day Saints?" David Koresh? Warren Jeffs? The LDS church is a cult! A bunch of perverted men having women being submissive to them.

    April 24, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  4. Debby

    Cnn has some real issues with their night time pundits. I can see why their ratings are so low.

    April 24, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  5. Lolo

    Let it go. The republicans are okay with saying Obama is non-christian, but talk about their own and they lose it. Such Hypocrits. Romney will not be president. He does not have a clue about anything outside of his golden bubble. He is such a phony and liar to boot.

    April 24, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  6. Lionel

    Romney is a Mormon. Mormons still practise polygamy. As a matter of fact Romney practices baptism of the dead. How about we talk about that. This man is unreal. So out of touch with the average person. Did Romney parents have the legal papers to move to the USA. If not, does that make him an anchor baby.

    Latinos are not going to flock to Romney. Latinos for Obama 2012

    April 24, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  7. zip

    Someone needs to interview Mitt Romney and do an in depth look into his faith and his family' background. There is a lot of rumors out there, and he better clear them up, or he will pay the price.

    April 24, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
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