April 23rd, 2012
09:34 PM ET
10 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. Laura

    Does Ralph mean like the Muslim whispers about President Obama? Seems fair if it happens to Romney now.

    April 23, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  2. JaylikeBird

    Has anyone actually seen Romney's birth certificate, to prove he's not a plant by UFO-Mayan-Cocaine Lord-Fascist-Lizard People? I mean really, you can't see the truth because it would shatter your little world. Put little copper pyramids on everything and prepare for the coming of Lizard Lord Romney!

    April 23, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  3. packerfans

    What wrong with Goverment Brian Schweitzer, You had big mistaken Church and States is seperation!! Of course you support for Obama!! Vote for Mitt Romney who can save America!!

    April 23, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  4. king

    Wow a Democrat having some back bone and standing up behind his remarks, this unheard of, its usually the repubs who spew all manner of evil and foolishness from their trap and gets applauded, but when the dens does it, they get slammed by their own party. Hey stand up some times dens and give these rabid repubs a taste of their own medicine.

    April 23, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  5. Tanya

    Liar Mitt can say what he wants; there are photos of his great grandfather surrounded by his many wives (THE REAL ROMNEY biography). His 1st wife lamented every time that old goat married younger and younger women.

    April 23, 2012 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  6. mcfloyd

    Why would you left-wingers have a problem with polygamy? You guys are proponents of men marrying men, so why can't men have multiple wives? Which is more perverse?

    I know! Tell the democrats they can tax a man for each additional wife... and they'll be all for it! LOL!

    April 23, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  7. Melo-D

    Is this the same GOP that can't see a threat in Ted Nugent's comments but they can see this as a comment against Willard's religion. Really?? This is going to get much worse I fear

    April 23, 2012 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  8. Jerry

    So much for "Freedom of Religion" and respect. This moron of a governor (Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer) needs to be hung by his 'ballies"' if he's got any!!!

    I am guessing he's just another desperate Imperial President supporter.

    April 23, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  9. harrywalsh

    You can't go much lower than giving Ralph Reed a platform. You are sinking fast Anderson, thanks to the awful lineup of guests and commentators you regularly drag out. Would be nice if now and then you would bring on some genuine lefties, articulate ones, that is and on straw men for your regular load of overtly Right wing extremists and their covert supporters like moldy old Gergen.

    April 23, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  10. tefera

    yes, voters should turn away from mormonist which is a cult. Why Romeny is afraid of talking about his faith?

    April 23, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  11. Ron

    There was no reason to even mention polygamy other than to try to sow doubt about Romney. The right-wingers have done the same thing over and over to Obama by trying to tie him with Muslims, radicals, foreigners–in other words, he's "not one of us." I don't like it one bit regardless of where it comes from. But for Ralph Reed to take objection to this comment by the Montana governor is laughable after what he and his ilk have done to Obama.

    April 23, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  12. GonzoinHouston

    Polygamy in the Mormon church is completely irrelevant in this election. Romney didn't engage in it, nor did his father. If some 6-th cousin by spiritual marriage was somehow involved, BFD. There are more than enough perfectly legitimate reasons to oppose Mitt Romney for president.

    April 23, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  13. roscoe

    If the sombrero fits, you've got to wear it.

    April 23, 2012 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  14. Joseph

    So according to Romney, Romney should self deport himself?

    April 23, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  15. Nobodies Pon

    They did and still do practice polgymy mormons need to stop crying when someone states a FACT. What wrong with FACTS. I guess a lot if your republican or mormon FACTS seem to be major problems.

    April 24, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  16. FED up

    Seriously? This is the guy CNN is insisting is the GOP candidate without any question? SERIOUSLY??? I guess Obama sort of adjusted how much importantce we as nation place on pesky little things like birth certificates and family background.

    April 24, 2012 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  17. mk1

    The plain fact is that the Romney family left the US because of laws against polygamy and moved to Mexico. They later moved back to the US giving up the lifestyle. There can be no denying that, it is pure fact. As I also understand it, they still have major ties to Mexico, just saying.

    April 24, 2012 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  18. John in Vegas

    The Latter Day Saints have a questionable record on human rights issues. During the 2008 elections, they made unscrupulous back-room deals with other like-minded secular organizations to shield themselves from public scrutiny and charges of unlawful politicking. They were accused of money laundering and other illegal activities. Whether or not Mitt Romney believes that polygamous relationships should be legal or that Native Americans are descended from Jews who migrated to the Americas thousands of years ago is not a big issue. However, when a presidential candidate supports such an organization with multi-million dollar donations, the stakes change and the voting public needs to know why.

    April 24, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  19. Obamawins

    Thank you Gov Schweitzer for calling out Romney and the truth. If the shoe fits Ewar it as the saying goes

    Not only that, but Romney is a first class draft dodger having his Morman church excuse him so he could go to France on missionary work. As Romney rose up the ladder the Morman church awarded him with a palatial manse in Paris along with a houseful of servants.

    Nothing but the best for the Mittster.

    Am sure our fighting men will love this story.

    April 24, 2012 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  20. Brian

    The article is a bit misleading, as are the governor's comments. The "commune" wasn't a commune. It was a settlement, of which there were many, from Canada to Mexico. Also, the practice ended in 1890 for the whole church including all the settlements. Some folks broke off and continued the practice, but they are and were never part of this settlement. Lastly, these people are and were US citizens. They never renounced their American roots, and to this day, they are still Americans living in Mexico. George Romney was born in Mexico as a US citizen even though his family lived there for generations.

    The bigger issue is how Democratic moles like this governor are doing the dirty work of the Obama campaign. Obama says religion is off limits, but I have seen far too many "Oops, did I mention something about Mormonism?" moments to think it's just a coincidence, and all the while Obama can denounce their actions. I think the American public will see through it though. But where are the stories about Obama's own father's polygamy?

    April 24, 2012 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  21. Blindersoff

    Bring forth the absolute truth about Mitt Romney, he may be privileged financially but his belief's along with his hidden family secrets and practices are fair game. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Let's continue to dissect, analyze, examine, study, scrutinize, pore over, investigate, go over with a fine-tooth comb. This, I just want to be president Romney. Hold him accountable.

    April 24, 2012 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  22. Little Jimmy Truth

    Nice trying to enjoy destroyed Romney's.

    Quit hurting him or you will join thugs with Obama.

    April 24, 2012 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  23. JerseyJeff

    Not a fan of cults....

    That being said, it is nice to see politicians drawing lines against what isn't important for a change instead of cheap personal political points.

    April 24, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  24. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Republicans have to play the phony outrage card, in hopes that someone will feel sorry for them. Facts do not favor republicans, including personhood candidate, Mittens.

    April 24, 2012 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  25. Richard Miller

    Way go Gov! Montanans love your honesty, refreshingly blunt as it is.

    April 24, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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