Where was Gov. Rick Perry this past weekend when two prominent supporters brandished faith as a weapon and went on the attack against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney? The answer to this question is at the end of this post.
But first, the Values Voter Summit.
This year’s VVS — held this past weekend in Washington, D.C. — was everything the American Family Association probably hoped Gov. Perry’s The Response would be when they wrote a $600,000 check to make the early August prayer rally possible.
In fact, VVS can be called the director’s cut of The Response, filled with all the extremist rhetoric that Gov. Perry’s handlers human decency dictated shouldn’t be aired at Houston’s Reliant Stadium lest the Texas governor be embarrassed ahead of his eventual announcement of a presidential run.
The controversy at VVS started early and centered on Mormonism. It was Friday when Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist (mega) Church of Dallas, endorsed Gov. Perry and in the same day called Perry’s rival, Gov. Romney, un-Christian and part of “a cult” because the former Massachusetts governor is, you guessed it, a Mormon.
The attacks on Romney’s faith had begun even before the Jeffress endorsement. Earlier this month, Bryan Fischer — a Gov. Perry supporter and the director of issue analysis for the AFA — had already gone after Mormonism. First, in a blog post Fischer called Romney “not Mormon enough” because Romney while on the board of Marriott Hotels didn’t do anything about the in-room porn available to hotel guests. Fischer followed up that initial volley by stripping Romney of his First Amendment rights. That amendment, Fischer believes, is for the exclusive use and property of Christianity, and does not protect Mormons.
So tensions were already high by the time Romney addressed VVS on Saturday morning. In what have been called somewhat “tepid” comments, Gov. Romney went after Fischer:
“One of the speakers who will follow me today has crossed that line, I think. Poisonous language doesn’t advance our cause. It’s never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. We should remember that decency and civility are values too.”
The emphasis is ours. That one speaker Romney alluded to without naming was Fischer, who was scheduled to address VVS after Romney.
Fischer didn’t directly respond when it was his turn to address VVS. But he did respond afterward when asked to comment by a reporter. Fischer’s response was ridiculous even by Fischer standards:
“I thought it was tasteless and tawdry.”
Really, Bryan? That was tasteless? If TFN Insider readers want a taste of tasteless, treat yourself to a heaping spoonful of the Bryan Fischer archive from our friends at Right Wing Watch, or catch the shorter Bryan Fischer on his Twitter profile.
So where was Gov. Perry while his supporters were shamelessly attacking Romney’s faith? Well, he was also at VVS, giving a speech that did nothing to put a stop to the anti-Mormon rhetoric that was already brewing even before the summit began.
In all fairness to Gov. Perry, he didn’t stay entirely silent on the issue. Through a spokesman, Gov. Perry said:
“The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult.”
Strong words, governor. That’ll show ‘em.
Let’s see how awkward things get on Tuesday evening during the next Republican presidential debate. Both Gov. Perry and Gov. Romney will be on the same stage, and so will former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is also Mormon.