That's the claim made by Judith Dushku, a political science professor, feminist and church-going Mormon (and, interestingly, mother to former Buffy cast member Eliza Dushku), who is the subject of a profile by Salon's Irin Carmon. Dushku, who used to belong to Romney's church and co-founded the Mormon feminist journal Exponent II, told Carmon that she's been reluctant to talk to the press about Romney during his most recent campaign because "Mormons are 'harmony-seeking,'" but agreed after being "irritated" by the Romneys' comments in the wake of Rosengate.
But it isn't her claim that Mitt and Ann have long seemed out-of-touch with the real lives of middle-and-working-class moms that's actually the most controversial. It's her claim, unearthed by Carmon from a 2007 interview with a New Zealand paper, that Romney's political positions were subject to approval from his church which are more likely to cause harm to his campaign.
In an interview with Susan Mazur, Dushku recounted a conversation she had with Romney in 1994, after he declared himself pro-choice during his Senate campaign against then-Sen. Ted Kennedy. (D-MA).
Judy Dushku: Then in 1994, when Romney was running for the Senate, he came out in favor of choice for women -- which was surprising to me. I was pleased and called, asking to see him. I told him I suspected that we had our differences, but that maybe I could work with him if he’d come to a really good position on women and childbirth.
And he said – Yes, come to my office.
I went to his office and I congratulated him on taking a pro-choice position. And his response was – Well they told me in Salt Lake City I could take this position, and in fact I probably had to in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts.
Suzan Mazur: Who’s “THEY”?
Judy Dushku: I asked him the same question. And he said “the Brethren” in Salt Lake City.
And I said, Mitt, it doesn’t make me happy to hear that. What you’re suggesting is that you’re not genuinely pro-choice. It’s a position of convenience.
He said – Oh no, I actually had an aunt who died of a botched abortion. So I have some positive feelings about choice, but basically I know that I have to take that position.
In 1960, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy was dogged by allegations that, as a Catholic, he was so beholden to the Vatican that electing him would be tantamount to electing the Pope. It was a series of allegations many American Catholics have not forgotten -- and ones that Kennedy disproved in his campaign and during his presidency. Romney, too, has been on the receiving end of similar allegations given the hierarchical structure of the LDS Church and Americans' self-reported discomfort with Mormons in elected office.
But Dushku's unearthed statements could breathe new life into those old allegations, and serve to underscore many Americans' prejudices against Mormon elected officials.
[Image via Flickr user davelawrence8, Creative Commons licensed]