LEBANON, N.H. -- Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney weighed in for the first time Tuesday on the controversial remarks of a Dallas pastor who called Romney’s religion, Mormonism, a “cult” at a prominent gathering of Christian conservatives in Washington last week.
“I just don’t believe that kind of divisiveness has a place in this country,” Romney said at a press conference at which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed him. “I would call upon Governor Perry to repudiate the sentiments and remarks made by that pastor.”
Christie was actually the first to denounce Perry and Jeffress at the press event, a signal of the tough-talking role he is likely to play as a campaign surrogate for Romney in the coming weeks and months.
“Any campaign that associates itself with that type of conduct is beneath the office of the present of the United States,” Christie said.
A Perry spokesman said Friday that Perry did not agree with Jeffress about Romney’s religion, but he stopped short of denouncing the pastor, who is a longtime Perry supporter and partnered with him over the summer at a evangelical prayer gathering in a Houston football stadium.
“The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult,” Perry spokesman Robert Black said in a statement. “He is not in the business of judging people. That’s God’s job.”
At the Values Voter conference last Friday, Jeffress told reporters that “Mormonism is not Christianity” and that “it’s not politically correct to say, but Mormonism is a cult.”