Good Morning America and the Today show on Monday fretted about the "ugly turn" the 2012 presidential race has taken in the wake of a pastor at a conservative conference decrying Mitt Romney's Mormonism as a "cult." Yet, these same programs promoted the "edgy" Book of Mormon play back in the spring.
On Monday, GMA's correspondent Jon Karl asserted, "The race for the Republican nomination has take an ugly turn with some now openly questioning whether Mitt Romney's Mormon faith should disqualify him from being president." Karl added that when Romney spoke at the Value Voters Summit, he "tried to take the high ground."
However, on March 18, 2011, co-host Robin Roberts introduced reporter Jake Tapper as a "big fan" of Book of Mormon creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Tapper described the Broadway play as an "edgy work, typical for [the creators]. But they insist Mormons should not be offended."
One Mormon reviewer of the play described it this way:
The main thrust of its claims about Mormonism is that Joseph Smith made it all up, and that his message does not apply to the modern world. It portrays Mormons as naïve and simplistic.
Of course, Mormons are also a cheerful, polite, and well-meaning bunch, and as such, are basically harmless. But the only way for them to truly do good in the modern world is to change their story so it applies to current problems, which should be fine since their scriptures were made up in the first place.
Over on NBC's Today, Chuck Todd used identical language, proclaiming that "the battle for the Republican nomination is taking an ugly turn."
On May 12, 2011, NBC's Matt Lauer touted the Book of Mormon as one of the "hottest shows on Broadway." Of those offended by the play, the Today host dismissed, "But have you had some people react in a--in a way that they don't quite take it as just plain fun, that they take it a little too seriously?"
Lauer quoted, "Here's how it's been described. It's a show that, quote, 'packs in plenty of blissful profanity, sacrilege and politically incorrect mischief.'"
By many accounts, the play is extremely vulgar and harsh harsh towards Mormonism. It seems odd for ABC and NBC to now turn around and be offended for Romney.
A transcript of the October 10 segment, which aired at 7:10am EDT, follows:
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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn now to politics. Your voice, your vote, and the issue the Republican Mitt Romney had hoped to put to lest last time he ran for President: A pastor's controversial comments about Romney's Mormon faith caused a ruckus at a summit of social conservatives over the weekend, creating a tricky situation for Romney and his GOP opponents. ABC's Jon Karl covered it all. Good morning, Jon.
JON KARL: Good morning, George. The race for the Republican nomination has take an ugly turn with some now openly questioning whether Mitt Romney's Mormon faith should disqualify him from being president. It all started at the Values Voters Summit of Christian conservatives, where Dallas Pastor Roberts Jeffress introduced Rick Perry.
ROBERT JEFFRESS: Rick Perry is a proven leader. He's a true conservative and he's a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
RICK PERRY: Pastor Jeffress, I want to say thank you for a rousing introduction. He- he knocked it out of the park, as we like to say.
KARL: But what did Pastor Jeffers mean by calling Perry a genuine follower of Jesus Christ? Afterwards, he made it clear he was saying Mitt Romney is not a genuine Christian and not an acceptable candidate because he is Mormon.
JEFFRESS: In my estimation, Mormonism is a cult and it would give credence to a cult to have a Mormon candidate. I believe Mitt Romney is a good, moral person, has a wonderful family. But, that's not what makes you a Christian.
KARL: At first, the Perry campaign didn't refute that. But within minutes, told ABC News,"The Governor doesn't believe it is a cult." Governor Perry seemed determined to avoid the question.
UNIDENTIFIED: Do you believe Mormonism is a cult though, Governor?
KARL: He answered with an abrupt "no" as he walked away. Later at the Values conference, another pastor seemed to suggest that Romney's faith disqualifies him.
BRYAN FISCHER (Dir. Of Issue Analysis, American Family Association): The next president of the United States needs to be a man- I'm speaking generically here- needs to be a man of sincere, authentic, genuine Christian faith.
KARL: As for Romney himself, he spoke to the conference too and tried to take the high ground.
MITT ROMNEY: Poisonous language doesn't advance our cause. It's never softened a single heart or changed a single mind. Let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart. We have important work to accomplish.
KARL: In an ABC News poll earlier this year, the overwhelming majority of Republicans said a candidate's faith should not be a factor. But, 20 percent, that's one out of every five, said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if he is Mormon. And, George, on Sunday, both Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain were directly asked if Mormons were Christians and both of them declined to answer that question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They took a pass on it. This could end up being a real challenge for Romney. Meanwhile, Governor Perry still facing questions over the weekend in Iowa over his stance on immigration. And he is looking to get back on offense this week.
KARL: And he sure is, George. The Perry campaign is out with a new ad, a 60 second ad that is the most devastatingly harsh ad I have seen yet in this campaign and the most slickly produced, portraying Romney as, basically, a clone of Barack Obama. Very harsh ad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all before tomorrow night's debate. And we expect to hear a jobs program from Perry at the end of the week. Okay, Jon. Thanks very much.