Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s Iowa campaign director quit Tuesday after it was revealed that he referred to Mitt Romney’s religion as the “cult of Mormon.”
During a focus group last week with The Iowa Republican and McClatchy newspapers, Craig Bergman noted that many evangelicals would not vote for Romney because of his religion.
“There is a national pastor who is very much on the anti-Mitt Romney bandwagon,” Bergman explained. “A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon… There’s a thousand pastors ready to do that.”
Within hours after The Iowa Republican published Bergman’s remarks, the Gingrich campaign released a statement saying that he had “agreed to step away from his role with Newt 2012.”
“He made a comment to a focus group prior to becoming an employee that is inconsistent with Newt 2012’s pledge to run a positive and solutions orientated campaign,” Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, a supporter of Rick Perry who introduced him at the Values Voter Summit in October, has also said that Romney was not qualified to be president because “Mormonism is a cult,” and he has hailed Perry as “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.”
“I just don’t believe that kind of divisiveness based on religion has a place in this country,” Romney complained at a news conference several days later.
While Perry never directly renounced Jeffress, his campaign did deny that they chose the pastor to introduce him at the summit.
“The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult,” Perry spokesman Robert Black told Politico. “He is not in the business of judging people. That’s God’s job.”
Romney has not yet chosen to respond to the latest attack on his faith, but in an interview with The Des Moines Register editorial board last week, he did say that voters should not make their decision based on religion.
“I don’t think the particular faith of an individual should become an issue in a campaign, but again it’s up to the people to decide what they want to do on their own,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “I think campaigns would be unwise to make a particular faith an issue in the campaign.”
Bergman is also a self-identified tea party activist who served as Ron Paul’s Iowa Political Director in 2008.