Harry Reid is giving lessons on Mormonism

It is never news when a Huffington Post blogger says that Mitt Romney, or any other Republican candidate, is beyond the pale. One of the times that happened last week, it involved a Democrat Mormon saying that he was upset with Romney. Unlike most criticism of Romney emanating from the illustrious pixels of the HuffPost, though, this article went after Romney as a Mormon.

Even that isn’t surprising.

But then one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the country — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — said he agreed with the Romney critic. Now, I have absolutely no doubt that if John Boehner or some other prominent Republican such as Sen. Mitch McConnell said he agreed that Barack Obama had “sullied” the Christian religion, we’d hear quite a bit of outrage in the media about it. Will the same happen in this instance?

While there are a few more mainstream accounts now, at first the story was only in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he agrees with a fellow Mormon who wrote recently that Mitt Romney has “sullied” the LDS faith and that the GOP presidential candidate is “not the face of Mormonism.”

Reid, a Mormon Democrat from Nevada, blasted Romney in a conference call for reporters over a litany of things the Republican nominee has said recently. And Reid added that Latter-day Saints aren’t buying Romney’s rhetoric.

“He’s coming to a state where there are a lot of members of the LDS Church,” Reid said in advance of Romney’s Friday visit to Nevada. “They understand that he is not the face of Mormonism.”

In contrast, other prominent Mormons have thanked Romney for presenting a positive image of the church.

The story, which is a pretty straight account of the conference call, is fine. It quotes other Mormons who say that Romney’s presidential run has been good for Mormonism and that Mitt Romney has brought honor to the church. The HuffPo piece was by Gregory A. Prince, co-author of “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.” We learn:

“Judge Mitt Romney as you will, and vote for or against him as you will; but do not judge Mormonism on the basis of the Mitt Romney that was unveiled to the public this week,” Prince wrote. “He is not the face of Mormonism.”

Reid, on the conference call, said, “I agree with him.”

“He said that Romney has sullied the religion that he, Prince and Romney share,” Reid said. “And he’s so disappointed that in his words, ‘It’s a good religion and he’s hiding from it.’ “

Prince was actually quoting a documentary film producer so those weren’t his words, but you get the idea. The article does a great job of getting a wide variety of views, both political and theological to weigh in on Reid’s attack on Romney.

But when the article mentions that Reid had claimed, based on nothing, apparently, that Romney hadn’t paid income taxes in some years, it got me thinking. Do we see anything approaching a proportionate level of scrutiny of Reid’s Mormonism? Do these statements and actions of his — incorrectly but repeatedly suggesting that Romney hasn’t paid any taxes based on the claim of an anonymous source, supporting the view that George W. Bush’s mother was a [very bad name] and involvement with the Nevada gaming commission and all the other things that go along with his decades-long career in politics   — comport with Mormon teaching? If so, how? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Mormon who is one of the most powerful men in the country. Do we see a proportionate level of scrutiny about how he lives his faith as we do about Mitt Romney? Should we?

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  • We should, and we don’t. Really, I’ve heard Reid is a mormon multiple times, and I keep on forgetting because it’s just never brought up – at least, not on the sites I read.

  • Mike

    Is Harry Ried running for president? Unless I’m a voter in Nevada, Harry Reud us if little consequence. That’s why the media doesn’t really care whether he’s a good Mormon or not.

    • mollie

      Might be a better argument if he weren’t the Senate Majority Leader and a major player in daily political reporting, but sure.

      • Mike

        I’m not sure scouring Reid’s Mormonism to score partisan points is (a) good journalism or ( b) helpful moving forward. He isn’t running for president where a candidate’s faith is only slightly more interesting. Romney is a “first” and therefore is going to get more scrutiny. But that doesn’t mean reporters need to drop everything to examine Reid ‘s Mormonism just because people want to score political points.

        • mollie

          If you only critically analyze one party’s top Mormon, that’s partisan point scoring. Providing proportionate coverage, as I suggested might be a good idea, would not be partisan point scoring.
          Also, there’s a lot of room between “zero” coverage and “the same as the presidential candidate’s.” Which is why I used the word “proportional.”

  • Jettboy

    Harry Reid of little consequence? He is the Senate Majority leader, one step away in power from the President and only a few steps away from the Presidency. Those laws that pass? He decides what ones should be voted on that come to him from the House, and without his approval they are good as dead. Elected in Nevada, essential for the country. Darn right he should be scrutinized and then ask your representative if they support him.

  • Darren Blair

    To my knowledge, the only time Reid being Mormon was ever an issue was in the period before Roberts was nominated to be Chief Justice; Reid frowned on the notion of appointing Justice Thomas to be Chief Justice, causing a World Net Daily reporter to accuse him of racism vis-a-vis his being Mormon.*
    Otherwise, the fact that Reid’s a Democrat means that he’s largely safe from scrutiny by the mainstream media so long as he toes the party line.

    *By the reporter’s own admission, he didn’t know that the Priesthood Ban was lifted in ’78; he only researched through to the 1960s and called it a day. He didn’t even know who Gladys Knight was, let alone that she was a member of the church.

  • mapman

    I think that Harry Reid’s accusations about Mitt Romney not paying taxes is pretty silly. I do appreciate his comments about Mitt Romney not representing Mormonism, though. It annoys me to no end when people try to explain everything about Mitt Romney with Mormonism. I keep hearing about how Mormons preach the prosperity gospel, how Mormons are good business men, etc. that don’t fit my experience as a Mormon. Obviously Mitt’s more of a Republican than a Mormon with his positions being more conservative on abortion, illegal immigration, and other things than the church. Hopefully people will start talking about Harry Reid’s Mormonism so that people will get a more balanced view of Mormonism and see that it is more diverse than people usually give it credit.

  • CarlH

    The kernel of truth in both the Huffpo piece and the interview with Reid is the statement that “Romney isn’t the face of Mormonism.” That’s a reality I wish the press would “get” (as to Romney, Reid, and any number of other public figures who happen to Mormon), but I’m not holding my breath.

    But Reid clearly stepped over what ought to be a pretty bright line in his suggestion that Romney as “sullied” Mormonism (especially in light of the things set out in Mollie’s final paragraph). His comment is as outrageous as comments by some Mormon conservatives (including at least one former Representative from Utah) that suggest there’s a question about whether one can be both a “good Mormon” and a Democrat.

  • FW Ken_Passing By

    I second CarlH on that. If there is one thing I’ve learned reading this site, it’s that there is not “one face” to Mormonism, no more than Islam or Catholicism.

  • FW Ken_Passing By

    Why do I keep getting thrown into moderation? I’m trying to change my handle because my browser saves it across Patheos blogs and I was using the wrong name in the wrong places. Passing By is now FW Ken and that’s the end of it!

  • Julia

    “.. . . supporting the view that George W. Bush’s mother was a [very bad name] and involvement with the Nevada gaming commission and all the other things that go along with his decades-long career in politics — comport with Mormon teaching?”
    Whatever could this have to do with Barbara Bush?

  • Julia

    “.. . . supporting the view that George W. Bush’s mother was a [very bad name] and involvement with the Nevada gaming commission and all the other things that go along with his decades-long career in politics — comport with Mormon teaching?”
    Whatever could this have to do with Barbara Bush?

    • Jettboy

      He called her a bad name. For Mormons or Christians in general for that matter its not a good behavior.

  • Mollie, if Obama was accused of sullying the Christian religion, you may be right that the MSM would react with outrage. But I think we’d hear very little. Deafeningly little.

    • JoFro

      I thought he already did when he referred to Jesus as “a” son of God 🙂

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    By dragging the Church into his political war against Romney, Reid is viokating the Church policy if political neutrality andntebelling againstbthe Church leaders. He is the one who is departing frim Mormon teachings. He is.even more hypocritical because he dies not apply the Mor,on tempkate to Obama, who tejects nany fundamental moral views if Mormonism. Nobody can think they are upholding Mormonism by voting for the number one advicate of gay marriage and forcing religiots peopke to pay for contraception and eventually abortion.

  • John Pack Lambert

    The answer of “do we see a similar scrutiny of Reid” is no. If we did he would be denounced as a bad Mormon for telling bold face lies about Romney.

    Should we see similar scrutiny? That is hard to answer. The reason is because I would say many of the attempts to portray Romney as a bad Mormon for statements that are not demonstarbly false, and are often inherently subjective and thus not demonstrably false, are well beyond the pale.

    On the other hand, while the claim that Mormonism should not be judged against the measure of Mitt Romney is a good one, the way this argument is being presented is questionable at best. The fact of the matter is that almost as high a percentage of Mormons support Mitt Romney as of African Americans support Barack Obama. The fact of the matter is in general Mormons vote about as overwhelmingly Republican as Jews vote overwhelmingly Democrat, although the portions of each religions members in congress is more balanced for Mormons than Jews.

    Thus, I have to object to Reid’s message as false. The fact of the matter is that Romney’s actions have not alienated him from most Mormons, and Reid’s claim that they have are just rubbish.

  • John Pack Lambert

    Here http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/sherm/Harry_Reids_losing_it.html?ref=091 is an insteresting response to Reid’s statement. It is clear to me that if Romney had said anything half as racially explosive as Reid’s comments about Obama and race we would never hear the end of it, or the attempts to paint Romney as racist because of his religion.