Couric did not challenge Romney's claim that "[n]o religious test should ever be required for qualification for office"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric asked Mitt Romney "why he didn't spend more time explaining the tenets of his Mormon faith in his speech last week." Romney replied: "I can't imagine doing that in a speech as you're running for president. ... [T]hat would really open the door to the kind of religious test where people would listen and say, 'OK, do I believe that?' " He later stated that "[n]o religious test should ever be required for qualification for office in these United States." But Couric did not note that Romney has repeatedly asserted that Americans "want a person of faith to lead them."

On the December 10 broadcast of the CBS Evening News, during an interview with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, anchor Katie Couric asked him "why he didn't spend more time explaining the tenets of his Mormon faith in his speech last week." Romney replied: "I can't imagine doing that in a speech as you're running for president. ... [T]hat would really open the door to the kind of religious test where people would listen and say, 'OK, do I believe that?' " Romney went on to state, "No religious test should ever be required for qualification for office in these United States." However, Couric did not note that Romney himself has repeatedly asserted that Americans "want a person of faith to lead them," as Media Matters for America has documented.

For example:

  • In his December 6 "Faith in America" speech, Romney attacked unnamed people who "seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God," claiming, "It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism. They are wrong." Romney further claimed that "[f]reedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," and "[f]reedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
  • Responding to host Chris Wallace's assertion that "evangelicals ... say Mormonism is a cult," on the February 26 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Romney asserted: "Well, I think people in this country want a person of faith to lead them as their governor, as their senator, as their president. I don't think most people care what brand of faith they have. ... Those things, I think, get swept away as people get to know the individual, understand their character, their vision, their values, and I think that's true regardless of a person's faith if they are a faithful person."
  • On the March 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, when co-host Sean Hannity stated that "it seems like" the media "are creating ... a religious litmus test" by asking Romney about his Mormonism, Romney replied: "[F]rankly, the people I talk to, not necessarily the reporters, but the people I talk to in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina tell me time and again they want a person of faith to lead the country, but they don't particularly care what brand of faith it is so long as the person has American values. And if you look at my marriage, and you look at our family and our kids, and the values that we've tried to instill in each one of our kids, you'll see that the values that I have are as American as any in this great country."
  • During an interview with Austin American-Statesman chief political reporter W. Gardner Selby, published in the November 22 edition of the paper, Romney reportedly stated: "I don't think people know a lot about my faith. But what I learn as I go about the country is that people want a person of faith to lead the country, but they don't particularly care what brand of faith that is, so long as the values that person has are American values. ... Now, if people want to know more about my particular faith, they can contact my church."

As Media Matters has noted, several news outlets have uncritically reported Romney's comments on faith in politics. For instance, The Washington Post reported on December 10 that Romney "repeatedly asserts his firm belief in the separation of church and state." In a December 6 article, the Associated Press reported Romney's complaint that a "religious test" to become president was "prohibited in the Constitution." Further, on the December 9 broadcast of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, panelists praised Romney's December 6 speech, with syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker claiming, "New Englanders tend to respond to religion more in terms of liberty and tolerance than in terms of emotional responses."

From the December 10 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

COURIC: Mitt Romney will air the first Republican-on-Republican attack ad in Iowa tomorrow, criticizing Mike Huckabee's record on illegal immigration. Today, I talked to Romney about Huckabee and about religion, specifically why he didn't spend more time explaining the tenets of his Mormon faith in his speech last week.

[begin video clip]

ROMNEY: I can't imagine doing that in a speech as you're running for president, because what it would do is, it would say: Look, if you're running for president, you really need to describe your religion in some depth. And that would really open the door to the kind of religious test where people would listen and say, "OK, do I believe that? Do I disagree with it? Does it conform with my own view?"

It would say: We're going to evaluate candidates based upon their explanation of their religion. And that's precisely what the Constitution and the founders said we should not do. No religious test should ever be required for qualification for office in these United States.

COURIC: Having said that, in the absence of a religious test, what's wrong with a little religious clarification?

ROMNEY: Well, and that's, I think, what I did. I pointed out and provided the answers to the questions I think are appropriate: "Will you be there to take direction from the leaders of your church?" And I said no. "Will you be there primarily, or in any way, to represent your church and to try and put its interests ahead of the people's?" The answer is absolutely not.

COURIC: In Iowa, Governor Mike Huckabee has TV ads that describe him, in quite a prominent way, as a Christian leader. Do you think he's trying to draw a distinction between the two of you?

ROMNEY: People run their own campaigns as they want to. I do think it's important that we don't reject someone for political office based on their faith, but also that we don't select someone or elect someone merely because of their faith. And I think it's unusual to advertise your faith in your political campaign.

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Posted In
Elections, Government
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Katie Couric
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News
Stories/Interests
Mitt Romney, 2008 Elections
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