In an interview on MSNBC’s Monday, prominent evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress tried to explain his position that Mormonism is a cult, saying it was a theological issue and not an insult.

The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, who has been under fire since he introduced and endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry at Friday’s Values Voter summit, has been doing a damage control tour of the media of sorts.

“I was talking not about a sociological cult” like the one responsible for the Jonestown massacre, Jeffress told Chris Matthews on “Hardball” Monday. “I’m talking about a theological cult,” he explained, meaning that the faith has its own human leader and its own doctrinal book that came after Christianity. “Mormonism is not Christianity and that’s what the real issue is.”

As evidence that his view was mainstream, Jeffress pointed to a poll suggesting that 75 percent of Protestant pastors do not consider Mormonism Christianity. “There are people out there who want to paint me as the Jeremiah Wright of the right,” he said on MSNBC, referring to the controversial former pastor to President Obama. “My comments are not fanatical.”

Meanwhile, fellow Mormon candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. had this to say about Jeffress on CNN’s Wolf Blizter: "The fact that, you know, some moron can stand up and make a comment like that, you know, first of all, it's outrageous."
At the same time, Jeffress also made clear that his views had nothing to do with Perry — another thing, he said, that separated his case from the relationship between President Obama and Wright, from whom Obama ultimately had to separate himself because of his controversial sermons.

“Rick Perry has never listened to a sermon of mine, he’s certainly never been a member of my church,” Jeffress said on Fox News. “We are just acquaintances.”

Jeffress argued that Christians have a right to prefer Christian leaders, saying “private citizens [can have] any kind of litmus test they want.”

Jeffress also suggested that Romney is not a particularly good Mormon, given his past support for abortion right, suggesting he wasn’t a “practicing Mormon.”

“I don't know, if he were a really a devout Mormon, I'm not sure how he could have held the views he did about abortion so long.”

However, the pastor reiterated that if Romney is the GOP presidential nominee, he will “hold my nose” and vote for him over Obama, “who I believe is a Christian,” because “there are factors in an election other than faith.”