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Late Night: Jon Stewart defends Mitt Romney's Mormonism

May 3, 2012 | 10:19 am

 

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Jon Stewart is hardly an admirer of Mitt Romney, but he prefers to target the presidential candidate for his ever-shifting political opinions, not for his Mormon faith.

On "The Daily Show" Wednesday night, Stewart went after critics from both sides of the aisle who've voiced concerns -- and in some cases, stereotypes -- about Romney's beliefs. Religious tolerance has long been one of Stewart's favorite issues, so despite his evident dislike for the former Massachusetts governor, his stance on Mormon-bashing is not terribly surprising.

During the Republican primary, most of the anti-Mormonism came from those on the right, according to Stewart. He pointed to Christian fundamentalists such as Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who called Mormonism a "cult," and Bryan Fischer of the American Family Assn., who said believers worship "a false god." Jeffress recently changed his tune, saying that he'd prefer a "Mormon like Mitt Romney" to a "Christian like Barack Obama." Stewart summarized his stance this way: “I hate Barack Obama more than I love Jesus.”

Now that conservatives have, however begrudgingly, accepted Romney as their nominee, it's time for attacks from the left, said Stewart. He began by criticizing Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer for comments about Romney's family history but saved his harshest words for MSNBC hosts Martin Bashir and Lawrence O'Donnell.

In a recent segment, Bashir attacked Romney for some perceived mistruths using passages from the Book of Mormon. The candidate could either "start telling the truth" or "face eternal damnation," Bashir argued. Stewart remarked that "it takes a bold man to judge someone by a book they are simultaneously ... on."

But the worst offender, according to Stewart, was O'Donnell, who claimed on "The Last Word" that Joseph Smith made up Mormonism as a way to get out of trouble for cheating on his wife. Stewart argued that plenty of other religions have origin stories that can be interpreted as "convenient alibis."  He also wondered why O'Donnell is so eager to ask Romney about former LDS teachings on the subject of interracial relationships but didn't question Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, also a Mormon, on the subject when he had the chance.

As far as Stewart is concerned, all the focus on Romney's religion is a distraction from the real problem: his politics. "It’s not like Mitt Romney will pursue policies that are unfair to black people because he’s a Mormon. He’ll do that because he’s a Republican," he concluded.

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— Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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