On Monday’s "Good Morning America," guest host George Stephanopoulos pressed 2008 Republican candidate Mitt Romney over whether he will "do more to address" the issue of his Mormon faith.
This is the same ABC program that has repeatedly raised questions about whether the former Massachusetts governor’s religion could damage his ‘08 chances. In June, reporter Dan Harris speculated on how "uncomfortable questions" about Mormonism could harm the campaign.
In contrast, GMA gushed over a CNN sponsored event in June where Democratic candidates discussed their faith. An onscreen graphic wondered, "Are evangelicals embracing Democrats? New party of God?" For that segment, co-host Robin Roberts marveled, "...Senator Obama out on the campaign trail has, has freely talked about his faith." She also played an extended clip of Hillary Clinton discussing the important role faith played in her life.
Mitt Romney has received no such favorable treatment. Rather, GMA has repeatedly discussed Mormonism in relation to how it might harm his campaign or discourage Republican primary voters from supporting him. On Monday, Stephanopoulos played a clip of Romney defending himself and his church to an Iowa radio host. Diane Sawyer teased that segment by calling it, "Romney unplugged." Then, after being asked yet again about his faith and whether conservative Christians would vote for him, Romney attacked the media’s heavy focus on his faith:
Mitt Romney: "You know, I see the same polls and [sic] say a very large percent are concerned if somebody is over 70 years old or if someone’s been married more than once. And frankly, the other guys don't get asked about those questions every time they go on the air. But there seems to be an interest constantly in my faith and that's fine on the part of the American people, but I think the media has more interest than the people do."
On June 19, GMA reporter Dan Harris narrated a segment on the "uncomfortable questions" that the 2008 Iowa front-runner will face:
Harris: "There are other Mormon beliefs that may provoke uncomfortable questions for Mitt Romney. For example, Mormons believe God was once a human being. Mormons also believe in symbolically baptizing the dead, even if they're members of other religions. And, up until 1978, including a time during which Romney was prominent in the church, black people had second-class status. Mormons used to teach that blacks have dark skin due to a curse from God."
And in April, GMA co-host Robin Roberts grilled Romney about receiving campaign donations from the heavily Mormon state of Utah. Below are a sampling of her questions:
Robin Roberts: "So, where is the money coming from, Governor?"
Roberts: "You say the money is coming from all the states. The ‘New York Times’ this morning is reporting that 15 percent of the money raised in your campaign is coming from the state of Utah. Many speculate that it has something to do, of course, with your being a Mormon. Does your, does your religion factor in at all in your campaign and in your fund-raising?"
Roberts: "Many are wondering if you will do, take a page from former President Kennedy, who had addressed the nation about his Catholic upbringing. Do you anticipate, anticipate doing the same?"
"Good Morning America" has demonstrated there’s quite a contrast between how the program focuses on a Republican’s faith and that of Democrats.
A partial transcript of Romney’s August 6 exchange with Stephanopoulos follows:
Diane Sawyer: "Mitt Romney unplugged."
[Clip from Romney interview with Iowa radio host] Mitt Romney: "I’m not running as a Mormon and I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it all about Mormon. [sic]"
Sawyer: "A fired up new front-runner swinging back at questions about religion, battling fellow Republican candidates and Democrats too during ABC’s debate. Mitt Romney joins us live."
Stephanopoulos: "You know, just before the debate this weekend, the cameras caught quite an exchange you had with an Iowa talk show host. It was during a break in his program. But the cameras caught it. He was pressing you on your Mormon faith. Let’s take a look."
Romney: "I mean, I don't like coming on the air and having you go after my church and me and–"
Radio host: "I'm not going after– I agree with your church!"
Romney: "I know. That’s right. But I’m not running as a Mormon and I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it all about Mormon. [sic]"
Radio host: "See, I don’t mind it being about that."
Romney: "Yeah, I do! I do."
Radio host: "I agree with the ethics of your church, for Pete's sake."
Romney: "So do I."
Stephanopoulos: "Governor, I know this is frustrating for you. But our recent poll showed that a third of Republican primary voters are still uncomfortable with the fact that you're a Mormon, almost 40 percent of evangelical Christians. Don't you need to do more to address this?"
Romney: "Oh, possibly. You know, I see the same polls and [sic] say a very large percent are concerned if somebody is over 70 years old or if someone’s been married more than once. And frankly, the other guys don't get asked about those questions every time they go on the air. But there seems to be an interest constantly in my faith and that's fine on the part of the American people, but I think the media has more interest than the people do. And, frankly, over time, my experience has been that people in America are not going to make their choice about who should lead the country based on what church they go to, but ultimately that’s a decision they’ll have to make. As Dr. Richard Land said, he's one of the leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, he said, ‘Look, Mitt, you're not running for Pastor in Chief.’ And that's absolutely right. I'm running to help lead this country, to make sure that it is strong, that its future is bright. I want to see us have a stronger military, a stronger economy and stronger families. That's what I'm going to fight for."