Maher Suggests Mormon Racism Behind Romney Airplane Scuffle, Incorrectly Dates 1963 Race Quote

On Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, during a discussion of Mitt Romney’s recent altercation with rapper Sky Blu on an airplane, host Maher seemed to suggest that Romney might have been motivated by anti-black racism in confronting the rapper as the Real Time host brought up racially tinged quotes from former Mormon church president Joseph Fielding Smith – who died in 1972 at the age of 95 after serving two years as president – as if the words were relevant to Romney’s scuffle. Maher: "I just couldn't help but think maybe this has something to do with the fact that the Mormons traditionally have not had a great relation with the black people."

After reading a quote from Smith that came from a 1963 article in Look magazine, in which Smith contended that "I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. Darkies are wonderful people," Maher claimed that the words were only 20 or 30 years old. Maher: "I'm just saying if you're a Mormon and this is the ‘pope’ of your church and he says things like this about Negro and darkies – and this is only like, I don't know how long ago this was, 20, 30 years ago." The HBO host then read a quote from the book, The Way to Perfection, published by Smith in the 1930s, without divulging the date.

After seeming at one point to suggest that Romney was racist as he asserted that "I'm saying that Mitt Romney knew that guy was black," he later seemed to back off from making such a direct charge after conservative panel member Amy Holmes asked Maher if he was claiming that Romney is racist:

AMY HOLMES: But I guess I'm asking, why are you bringing this up in terms of this altercation that Mitt Romney had? Are you saying that he's a racist? I don't get it.

BILL MAHER: No, I'm saying the religion that he belongs to has a history of racism like we've never seen before.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, March 12, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO:

BILL MAHER: He had a recent kerfuffle with a rapper on an airplane – Mr. Sky Blu, the rapper – and, apparently, Mitt was behind him, and the guy moved his seat back, and then he said Mitt gave him a Vulcan pinch, and I just couldn’t help but think maybe this has something to do with the fact that the Mormons traditionally have not had a great relation with the black people.

JOHN HEILEMANN: Well, I kind of like the idea that, I was hoping that the story would have been that they got into a fist fight because you kind of imagine "the Thrilla in Manila," you know, the two of them really going at it. But, apparently, it was a lot more peaceable than that, which is unfortunate for all of us.

MAHER: I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that Joseph Fielding Smith, who was a descendent of Joseph Smith, the founder, was the president of the Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. Here are some of his quotes: "I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. Darkies are wonderful people."

[Actor Hill Harper laments that both men were not put off the plane.]

AMY HOLMES, AMERICA’S MORNING NEWS: You’re bringing up a racial angle to this. Did the rapper know who Mitt Romney was and that he was Mormon?

MAHER: No, but I’m saying Mitt Romney knew that that guy was black. That’s what I’m saying. I’m saying he’s from a church, he’s from a church, this is basically the "pope" of the church. ...

HOLMES: But it was the rapper who instigated the, you know, sort of physical exchange between the two, and I don’t think Mitt Romney is, like, jumping up punching people on airplanes.

MAHER: But I’m just saying if you’re a Mormon and this the "pope" of your church and he says things like this about Negro and darkies – and this is only like, I don’t know how long ago this was, 20, 30 years ago. Here’s another Joseph Fielding Smith quote. He’s talking about Cain, who was the father of an inferior race: "A curse was placed upon him, and that curse has been continued unto this lineage. These are the descendants of Cain." Black people he’s talking about. "And we hope that blessings may eventually be given to our Negro brethren, for they are our brethren notwithstanding their black covering and emblematic of eternal darkness."

HOLMES: I’m not a Mormon. I’m not here to defend Mormonism.

MAHER: I would think you would be defending black people.

HOLMES: Of course.

MAHER: I mean, I would think when somebody says "emblematic of eternal darkness," it would get your gander up!

HOLMES: I’m not a religious person. There are passages in the Bible that also have nasty things to say about women not having the same value as men.

MAHER: Right.

HOLMES: Of course. But I guess I’m asking, why are you bringing this up in terms of this altercation that Mitt Romney had? Are you saying that he’s a racist? I don’t get it.

MAHER: No, I’m saying the religion that he belongs to has a history of racism like we’ve never seen before.

HOLMES: I would agree with that, but I don’t see its relevance to the airplane-

MAHER: Maybe not.

HOLMES: -situation with Mitt Romney and the rapper.

MAHER: All right, let’s talk about the groper.