Newsweek, the musical

So, uh, this happened. Newsweek has a story on Mormons headlined “Mormons Rock! They’ve conquered Broadway, talk radio, the U.S. Senate-and they may win the White House. Why Mitt Romney and 6 million Mormons have the secret to success.” And as the headline might indicate, it’s a favorable article about Mormonism. We may look at the article in the days to come. I do have to point out this second paragraph about former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s candidacy and announcement for the presidential nomination:

But there was one challenge–a challenge that could alienate the kind of Republicans who vote in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina–that Romney didn’t address: his Mormon faith.

Um, when was this written? 2006? Remember that really big speech Romney gave about … his Mormon faith? I remember it. I remember covering it in December of 2007.

But check out this cover. Whoa. It’s always so interesting to me how the media can do such a good job of protecting some groups from caricature and advance gross stereotypes of others at the same time. This is, near as I can tell, a parody of the poster for the Broadway musical hit “The Book of Mormon.” I haven’t seen that musical yet, although it has been remarkably well received by arts critics. One of our readers did his own critique of some of these reviews.

Back to the cover and the paragraph excerpted above. The irony of the whole package is killing me. The “Book of Mormon,” which, again is apparently a very good musical from the creators of South Park, is an entirely New York phenomenon. It mocks general religious belief using Mormon characters. It’s made by media elites (media elites whom I generally like, admittedly) and enjoyed by a class of people who go to Broadway musical. So somehow that’s not Romney’s problem — even when it means his head gets photoshopped on a poster from the musical. No, his problem is those backward Iowans and South Carolinians, you dig? I mean, I don’t think most Americans even have any idea what the musical is — not a good sign for magazine sales based on a cover parody of the musical.

What would be the equivalent of other candidates being so caricatured? It kind of reminds me of that New Yorker cover. It featured the Obamas as Osama-loving, flag burning Muslims. The point was to make fun of President Obama’s opponents and paint them in a bad light, but it was criticized by both the Obama campaign and opponents.

But what do you think about this cover? And would it make you more likely to purchase the magazine or continue to ignore it?

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  • Dan Crawford

    I’ve ignored Newsweek and Time for years without any withdrawal symptoms. I guess I’m surprised that people stll read them. The New York Times is quickly sliding into the same category.

  • Jerry

    The last time I bought a magazine was before my last plane flight a year ago. I always like to have some “mind rot” to distract myself on longish flights. Otherwise, I really don’t care what they print any longer.

    But the other point about his religion, it looks like the media is hoping for controversy so they can report on it. After all, without controversy where would they be?

  • JH

    The media spends a nice bit of money on EXIT polls on election night. I wish people covering this element of the story would look at them

    I am not saying that Romney in some quarters had problems with “evanglical” voters. But I think it was overblown. In some states he had major problems with Catholic voters. In two states that were critical to him (Florida and Claifornia) he had a much bigger problem with people that rarely went to the Church or were un believers

    For California see here

    Exit polls are crucial and are the most accurate of polls. It gives us an insight on what actual voters that actually voted were thinking. Yet this data is often never consulted.

    It baffles me that so many people that cover the religious angle of this story seem to ignore this data.

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Wait. You’re tell me that Newsweek still puts out a magazine!?

  • Nicole Neroulias

    To be fair, it’s safe to assume that the bulk of Newsweek’s audience is familiar with “The Book of Mormon.” (Both for demographic reasons, and because the magazine has covered it extensively in the past few months, unrelated to the Romney campaign.)

  • tmatt


    Yes, it has actually gotten a bit more interesting as of late. A tiny hint of diversity showing up. Will it continue? I’m watching, in part because of some of the talent — think Peter Boyer — being landed by NewsBeast.

  • tmatt


    Does anyone doubt that Mormon issues will play a role in the Iowa caucuses and in South Carolina? Please know that MZ is not calling for facts on the ground to be ignored and both sides covered accurately.

    But that cover really is NE folks talking to NE folks. Inside the inside of the inner ring.

  • Julia

    On the other hand: like everybody else I know in fly-over country, I’ve seen those happy Mormon guys in black pants and white shirts (never noticed the white socks) on bikes going around town knocking on doors. So – I’d get the Mormon reference even if I didn’t know about the musical “The Book of Mormon”,

    BTW I’ve read about the musical a number of times, but have never seen the movie poster which is being referenced.

  • Bram

    This cover only reinforces Newsweek’s status as the Jack Chick comic for the liberal fundamentalist set.

  • Jettboy

    I am not as impressed with the article as that favorable. It might not be directly anti-Mormon, but it has problems.

    “In an age of spiritual consumerism, when many people regard religion as a therapeutic lifestyle aid, faith is often expected to serve the individual. For Mormons, it’s the other way around.”

    No its not “the other way around” for believing Mormons. It is about serving as worship. On the other hand, I doubt that faith is considered primarily a therapeutic lifestyle aid by a lot of people who believe Church (not just religion) is an important part of worship.

    “Romney and Huntsman may miss an unprecedented opportunity to dispel misconceptions, blunt biases, and make real progress.”

    How, I ask? How? I would say it would end up, despite the negatives, they would do nothing BUT discuss Mormonism and lose sight of their status as Politicians. They have not been called to evangelicalism. Besides, isn’t it the MSM’s responsibility to do that work? Not that I trust reporters to do the right thing.

    “Mormonism’s founder, the self-declared prophet Joseph Smith”

    Is there any other kind with a founder of even a major religion? I can’t help to feel there was a questionable reason why it was stated that way. I would even go with “self-described” as a better descriptive of how he thought of himself.

    “from text written on golden plates he found buried in the ground”

    I am a bit tired of this description. He didn’t claim to “find” them. He claimed the location of the plates was shown by an Angel. It even has the added “weird” factor, but at least more accurate.

    “Some spend additional hours performing secretive rituals and sacraments”

    The least they could do is somehow include why Mormons are “secretive” with the rituals and sacraments. Its not just to keep others out. Perhaps something like ” . . . that they consider sacred (including . . .)”

    “The result is an organization that resembles a sanctified multinational corporation . . .”

    Why is Mormonism always described like this, and the Catholic Church, for instance, is not? This has been a Nesweek staple way of talking about the LDS Church for years and its offensive.

  • Leslie Wolf

    I am not a Mormon. In fact, I am strongly inclined to think that Mormonism should not be considered a branch of Christianity (and not just on account of its rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity), and I myself am a Christian. That said, I found the cover of Newsweek to be offensive for several reasons. First and foremost, I think that it exploits a common caricature of Mormons. Moreover, I think that Romney’s Mormonism should not influence whether people vote for him. Prejudice against Mormons is just as pernicious and wrong as any form of prejudice; and, I think that it would be deeply unAmerican not to vote for Romney just because of his faith. Media discussion of Mormonism is often superficial and uninformed. (I could also say the same about Judaism, Islam, and Catholicism.) That is a shame, and it should change.

  • Joel

    [W]ould it make you more likely to purchase the magazine or continue to ignore it?

    Neither. It makes me want to throw rocks at the side of their building and shout rude words. It’s like putting a black politician in blackface.

    I don’t think it’s an accident that the posture of the body suggests gay flamboyancy. Given that the Mormon Church has strong opinions on gay marriage, it’s clearly intended to be an extra slap in the face. (Yeah, we all know what those missionary boys are really up to. Wink wink.)

    This cover is a new low for Newsweek, which is saying something.

  • Bram

    Joel nails it. At some more civilized and decent future time these sorts of things — both the Newsweek cover and the Broadway show — will be seen for precisely what they are: our era’s equivalent of blackface minstrelsy. Mormons have made a lot of progress on the racial front. Too bad so many left-liberals haven’t made more progress on the Mormon front or on any religious front.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I wonder how it would go over if there were a Jewish candidate for president (or vice-president-as in Sen. Lieberman a few years ago) and this pathetic excuse for a news magazine had photo-shopped the senator’s face onto Tevye from “Fiddler On The Roof.”
    As for Catholics voting for a Mormon–Romney was elected governor in one of the most Democratic states in the union,but also one of the most Catholic. And he beat someone who had Irish-Catholic roots.

  • Kevin K

    I am not a Mormon, and wouldn’t say I agree with many of its beliefs, but the bigger issue we’re facing here in this country is the tearing down of ALL religion by many in the media, whether it be through satire, or just by blatant (and often ignorant) criticism. I may not agree with the Mormon faith, but I will not judge Romney’s ability to be president based on that.

  • Joel

    I find it kind of amusing how New York Newsweekers continue to treat Mormons as some sort of zoo animal. In the rural west, they’re just the neighbors. My county in central Washington is about a third LDS, so saying you wouldn’t vote for a Mormon is like saying you wouldn’t vote for a guy with a mustache.

  • Mollie


    How many mustachioed men live in central Washington??

  • Harold

    I actually think it is a brilliant cover. The article is about how Mormonism is “hot” culturally, so to speak, and so tying a picture into a quintissential Mormon symbol–the Mormon man on mission–is very creative, especially with its connection to the Broadway show.

    Unlike Mollie and Tmatt, I don’t see the use of a Broadway show image to be elitist or somehow NE. Most Broadway ticket buyers are tourists, so you are must as likely to sit next to someone from Iowa or South Carolina as you are to sit by someone in Tribeca. The show is part of the current pop-culture reference–even people in Iowa read Entertainment Weekly and watch TV.

    While, sadly, there is a lot of liberal bashing going on in this thread, the polling data shows Romney’s problem isn’t with liberals, but with the core GOP constituency: Evangelicals. They are the ones who say they arent’ willing to vote for a Mormon because they aren’t “Christians.”

  • Kyle

    They are the ones who say they arent’ willing to vote for a Mormon because they aren’t “Christians.”

    I don’t doubt that a significant number of people (including some Evangelicals) will not vote for Romney because he is Mormon. However, I would think that constituency is at least as likely to have reservations about him because he is a rich Republican coming from a New England state who until roughly the time he started being spoken of as a serious presidential candidate was a staunch advocate for a legal right to abortion. Some doubt the sincerity of that conversion. Some suspect he’s basically one of those northeastern liberals who likes tax breaks, a so-called “Rockefeller Republican.” Whether these perceptions are right or wrong, I would suggest he steps on a lot of fault lines in the GOP, not just religious ones, although those too.

  • Jettboy

    Actually Harold, if you read the polls, the data shows that there IS a Mormon problem with Liberals. That might not be in the primary where few liberals reside in the Republican Party, but it does count in large numbers of the electorate. As a Salon article says:

    “Mormon’s challenge is, indeed, hardly limited to evangelicals. Liberals, for example, have a colder view of Mormon candidates. Democrats are more likely to disapprove of Mormonism in general than Republicans — by a margin of 53 to 39 percent in 2009. Democratic partisans also hold a significantly more unfavorable view of Mormons than Republican partisans — 36 to 24 percent, respectively.”

    By the way, I found a blog that explains why the Newsweek article is as bad as the cover:

    You just can’t trust em’ is seems to say.

  • Mollie

    Friends, please remember to keep the comments focused on media coverage.

  • Joel

    While, sadly, there is a lot of liberal bashing going on in this thread, the polling data shows Romney’s problem isn’t with liberals, but with the core GOP constituency: Evangelicals.

    Harold, I can agree with the last part of your comment. Evangelicals may be likely to be hesitant to vote for a Mormon, because of the disparity in theology. More so if they have limited experience with Mormons in their personal lives.

    But I’m surprised you’re not seeing the homosexual caricature in the cover image. It’s especially significant when you consider that Mormons loomed big in the news a couple of years ago over the California gay rights referendum. I think this cover leaves liberal-conservative divisions behind and descends into bigotry. Trendy bigotry, but bigotry nonetheless.

  • Nathan Rein

    I’m late to the party, here, and I think the cover is ridiculous, but I’m wondering what the gay caricature is that others are seeing. Is it because he’s dancing?