O'Reilly asserted secular progressives think "Mitt Romney is a dangerous Mormon," but polls show conservatives more reluctant to vote for a Mormon

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

Discussing Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson's 2008 predictions, Bill O'Reilly stated on his Fox News show that the "secular-progressive far left says, look, all these people are crazy; all believers are nuts. They're dangerous people. ... Mitt Romney is a dangerous Mormon." However, polling data indicate that white evangelical Protestants are the most likely to be bothered by Romney's religion, and that conservatives are less willing than liberals to vote for a Mormon.

On the January 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, in a discussion with nationally syndicated radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham about Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson's 2008 predictions, host Bill O'Reilly stated: "[T]he secular-progressive far left says, look, all these people are crazy; all believers are nuts. They're dangerous people. ... Mitt Romney is a dangerous Mormon." However, polling data indicate that white evangelical Protestants are the most likely to be bothered by Romney's religion and that a lower percentage of conservatives than liberals would be willing to vote for a Mormon. Further, Media Matters for America has noted (here, here, and here) several instances of conservative and evangelical leaders' demonstrated hostility toward Mormonism.

A Pew Research Center summary of its August 1-18 survey reported that "GOP Evangelicals [are] reluctant to vote for a Mormon." The Pew survey found: "A quarter of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon. But among white Republican evangelical Protestants, 36% express reservations about voting for a Mormon," compared with 21 percent of "white Catholic Republican voters" and 16 percent of "white non-evangelical Protestant Republicans." Pew's analysis of the poll stated: "[T]he group of Americans most likely to say they value religiosity in a president -- white evangelical Protestants -- is also the group most apt to be bothered by [Romney's] religion. More than one-in-three evangelical Republicans (36%) expressed reservations about voting for a Mormon, a level of opposition much higher than that seen among the electorate overall."

According to a February 9-11, 2007, USA Today/Gallup poll, 75 percent of "liberals" would be willing to vote for a Mormon for president, compared with 66 percent of "conservatives." Gallup's analysis of the poll stated: "Conservatives are less willing than moderates or liberals to vote for candidates with several of the characteristics [of a 'non-traditional candidate'], including being of Mormon faith or married three times. This could make things somewhat more difficult for Romney or [former New York City Mayor Rudy] Giuliani to prevail in the Republican primaries, since conservatives make up the base of the Republican Party."

In addition to polling data, Media Matters has documented other evidence of conservative and evangelical hostility toward Mormonism:

  • In 2004, Mormons were barred from conducting services during National Day of Prayer ceremonies by the group's task force chairwoman, Shirley Dobson, the wife of Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson.
  • The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), America's second-largest religious community after Catholicism, has declared Mormonism to be a cult. The SBC's official news service, BP News, highlighted the denomination's rejection of Mormonism in a September 23, 2005, article that began:

For the past 150 years Mormonism has been in conflict with biblical, historic Christianity.

But leaders of Mormonism -- officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS] -- have in recent years downplayed the cult's divergence from traditional Christianity and now portray it as merely another form of the biblical faith.

The SBC's North American Mission Board -- the SBC's domestic missions agency -- includes the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)" on its list of "Major Cults and Sects in North America," and the Mission Board uses LDS as an example in highlighting four of the six characteristics it uses to answer the question, "What is a Cult or Sect?"

Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) has also identified Mormonism as a cult, listing the religion on a Web page titled "How Do I Recognize a Cult?" The CBN concludes: "[T]he Mormon church is a prosperous, growing organization that has produced many people of exemplary character. But when it comes to spiritual matters, the Mormons are far from the truth."

From the January 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

INGRAHAM: He [Pat Robertson] said it was going to be something like nuclear. I don't know what that means. But it was going to be something like nuclear. That didn't happen.

And now he's having the bold prediction of there could be a recession in 2008. And I say that's not a prediction; that's what I read in The New York Times today, OK? If that's a prediction --

O'REILLY: That means it won't happen, though. If you read it in the Times, it won't happen. He also says there will be violence and chaos next year or this year.

INGRAHAM: That's just the Giuliani campaign, Bill. That's just the Giuliani campaign. At this point I think [former Arkansas Gov. Mike] Huckabee and Romney are thrilled that Pat Robertson did not predict that they would win and that he did not endorse them. Because, if I'm Giuliani, I'm thinking, is there any way we can somehow erase this endorsement?

O'REILLY: Now, there's a -- there's a serious undertone to this. Because when a Pat Robertson comes out and makes predictions and says angels are coming and miracles are coming, then the secular-progressive far left says, look, all these people are crazy; all believers are nuts. They're dangerous people. Huckabee's a fanatic, a theocrat; Mitt Romney is a dangerous Mormon. And so it almost feeds into the culture war we have between the believers and the nonbelievers, and that's the serious aspect of it.

Stories/Interests
Mitt Romney, 2008 Elections
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