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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

LA Times Beats Drum of Romney's "Mormon Problem" . . . Again. But now you can hear . . . "The Rest of the Story"

(Apologies to Paul Harvey for stealing his line.)

It wasn't enough for the LA Times to sponsor and publicize a misleading poll thay many have thought casts doubts on Romney's chances of becoming POTUS because he's LDS (That's the one that says that 37% don't want a Mormon POTUS--see the link above for why I think that's a poorly conducted and highly misleading poll).

Well, now the LA Times has run another story titled "Romney's 2008 Bid Faces Issue of Faith: Massachusetts' GOP governor has political promise, but voters may not embrace a Mormon.".

As is becoming a common theme with articles about Romney they essentially say that he's the PERFECT candidate . . . except for that darn religion that he ascribes to.

DES MOINES — In seeking a presidential candidate for 2008, why would Republicans look further than the governor of Massachusetts?

Tall and urbane, Mitt Romney has a prime political pedigree, an unblemished personal life and the cool confidence of a CEO. He is a conservative Republican who won easy election in a fiercely liberal state — then streamlined Massachusetts' government and enacted the country's most sweeping healthcare overhaul.

He is a passionate defender of states' rights and recently has embraced strong views against stem cell research and abortion — a reversal of earlier positions. He never swears, and his sole vice is Diet Coke. Not incidentally, the 59-year-old governor boasts Ivy League credentials and movie-star looks.

OK . . . they could have stopped the article there; but they go on to quote folks who seem to think Romney's Mormonism will be a BIG hurdle (some even think insurmountable).

As a devout Mormon — and a onetime bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — Romney adheres to a faith that makes many Americans uncomfortable.

They quote their own lousy poll as evidence of their point and then quote a Poli Sci prof from Emory, Merel Black:

"He starts out with a deck stacked against him,"

Then it gets interesting:

[Romney's] reluctance to delve deeper into his beliefs, only add to the mystery of a faith that many Americans associate with polygamy — although that practice has long been outlawed by the church — and with customs such as marrying people after they have died and converting the dead.

"Evangelicals are appalled by all that," said Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Assn. of Evangelicals in Colorado Springs, Colo. "We evangelicals view Mormons as a Christian cult group. A cult group is a group that claims exclusive revelation. And typically, it's hard to get out of these cult groups. And so Mormonism qualifies as that."

In addition, Haggard said, evangelicals do not accept Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith as a prophet. "And we do not believe that the Book of Mormon has the same level of authority as the Bible," he said.

Boy, sounds like this Haggard guy is going to be leading the charge against a Romney presidency, right?


That same Pastor Ted Haggard, just one month ago spoke with a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune and he didn't seem to be such an obstacle to a President Romney:

The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said Friday he would have no problem voting for a Mormon for U.S. president. . . .

"We rejected an Evangelical [Harriet Meiers] for the Supreme Court and accepted a Catholic [Samuel Alito]," said Haggard, who was in Salt Lake City to address the Religion Newswriters Association's annual convention. "It's a question of competence." Evangelical Christians are more interested "in good government," than in religious affiliation, . . .

But it's not all so rosy for Haggard:
"We believe Mormonism is a Christian cult," [Haggard] said after his speech. "But we have the same positions on many social issues, pro-life and so on." He said that Evangelicals and Catholics have long joined forces on these social issues and a similar dialogue about them between Evangelicals and Mormons is "in the early stages." "We are in search for areas where we can stand together," Haggard said.

At least the Salt Lake Tribune carried both sides of Haggard's comments . . . The LA Times wasn't quite so honest, eh?

But it's not just Haggard that they hold up as an obstacle to Romney. They quote a South Carolinian GOP County Chairman, Rick Beltram, about how much work Romney has to do to make any headway in that Bible Belt State:

But as he campaigns in South Carolina, "the biggest weakness for Romney is that he is a Mormon," said Spartanburg County Republican Party Chairman Rick Beltram.

"He's got to convince the rank and file that Mormonism isn't some strange cult religion, and persuade people that the beliefs he holds are very much mainstream USA."

Starting with Romney's first exploratory trip to Spartanburg, S.C., in February 2005, Beltram said, "Everyone said, 'Oh boy, what does a Mormon believe in?' "

Wait though, this the same Rick Beltram who was quoted just a few days ago in a South Carolina paper, The State:

“Romney has moved up the fastest,” said Spartanburg County Republican chairman Rick Beltram.

Obviously, Beltram isn't painting a picture of an insurmountable challenge (which seems to be the whole point of the LA Times article.) Very shady journalism, if you ask me.

Well, I just thought every one deserved to hear . . . "The Rest of the Story." One sided reporting of issues is something we've come to expect from liberal rags like the LA Times. But that doesn't mean that we have to take the trash they're trying to shove down our throats.


Miller said...

Romney campaigning should target Evangelical leaders. If Romney can generate enough support from evangelical leaders, that could be very powerful in his POTUS bid. While leaders of some faiths reguse to endorse a specific candidate in front of their congregation, I believe an evangelical leader who viewed Romney favorably might persuade an entire congregation to vote for him. What do you think?

myclob said...

Hay, do you know this was Ted Haggard?

Sex and methamphetamine scandal

[edit] Allegations

On November 1, 2006, Mike Jones alleged that Haggard (whom Jones knew as "Art"; Haggard's middle name is Arthur) had paid for sex with him on an almost monthly basis over the previous three years. Jones contends the relationship was strictly physical, not emotional, and that he was typically paid a "couple of hundred dollars" but sometimes Haggard would pay him extra. [24] Jones also stated "[Haggard] had told me he loved snorting meth before [he] has sex with his wife" and that Haggard had also revealed a fantasy he had of having an orgy with "about six young college guys ranging from 18 to 22 in age."[25]

Jones claims Haggard had often used drugs in front of him,[24] but he said he never actually sold drugs to Haggard but instead introduced him to someone he could purchase it from.

About two years ago he asked, "Hey, Mike, what do you know about meth? I don’t do it personally, but I know people who do." I told him that some people think it enhances their sexual experience. He asked if I could help him get some. I located someone he could connect with. After that, he got it on his own. The last time he saw me, he was trying to get some and couldn't, which resulted in him sending me money through the mail in August, postmarked Colorado Springs. He wrote "Art" on the corner of the envelope. I just read that his middle name is Arthur....[26]

Jones said he made his outing allegations against Haggard in response to Haggard's political support for a Colorado Amendment 43 on the November 7, 2006 Colorado ballot that would ban same-sex marriage in that state. Jones told ABC News, "I had to expose the hypocrisy. He is in the position of influence of millions of followers, and he's preaching against gay marriage. But behind everybody's back [he's] doing what he's preached against."[25] Jones hoped that his statements would sway voters.[27]

Jones volunteered to take a polygraph test on a KHOW radio show hosted by Peter Boyles, where Jones first made the allegations. However, Jones' responses during the section of the polygraph test about whether he had engaged in sex with Haggard indicated deception. Haggard responded by saying "We're so grateful that he failed a polygraph test this morning, my accuser did." Jones was not asked questions about drug use. The test administrator expressed doubt about the accuracy of the test because of Jones's recent stress and resulting inability to eat or sleep. Jones says he doubts he will retake the test.[28]

Voice analysis expert Richard Sanders has compared the voice of Haggard from a television interview to that of the voicemails released by Jones and announced preliminary results stating that the voice on the voicemail is most likely that of Haggard. According to an article from KUSA, "Sanders makes his decision by comparing the resonance of the voice, the play of one's tongue and the inflection of vowel sounds."[29]

[edit] Rumors prior to the Jones allegations

Greg Montoya, editor of Out Front Colorado, a Denver GLBT newspaper, told the Colorado Springs Gazette that "rumors about Haggard's love life have circulated through Denver's gay community for the past year. 'But we didn't know it involved Mike Jones.'"[30]

Montoya's disclosure was paralleled by Lou Sheldon, chairman of the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition and a self-proclaimed friend of Haggard, who told New York's The Jewish Week that he and "a lot" of other people had been aware of Pastor Haggard's same-sex behavior "for awhile... but we weren't sure just how to deal with it.... Ted and I had a discussion. He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn't. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that."[31]

[edit] Response to allegations

Haggard initially claimed he had never heard of his accuser and denied having ever done drugs and stated "I have not, I have never had a gay relationship with anybody."[32] Many evangelical leaders initially showed support for Haggard and were critical of media reports. James Dobson issued a news release stating, "It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election – especially the vote on Colorado's marriage-protection amendment – which Ted strongly supports."[33]

Later however, Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.[34] He went on administrative leave from his position as senior pastor of New Life Church, saying "I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."[35]

On November 2, 2006, senior church officials told Colorado Springs television station KKTV that Haggard has admitted to some of the claims made by Jones.[36] In an e-mail to New Life Church parishioners sent on the evening of November 2, Acting Senior Pastor Ross Parsley wrote, "It is important for you to know that he [Haggard] confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true."[37]

Haggard admitted on November 3 that he had purchased methamphetamine and received a massage from Jones, but he denied using the drugs or having sex with Jones. "I called him to buy some meth, but I threw it away. I bought it for myself but never used it." Haggard claimed in a radio interview, and added, "I was tempted, but I never used it."[38]

As it became apparent that some of the claims were true, and that Haggard's denials were false, some evangelical leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell sought to downplay Haggard's influence on religious conservatives and also deny that the NAE is very important."[39] On his television show, "The 700 Club" Robertson said, "We're sad to see any evangelical leader fall" and also said the claim that the NAE represents thirty million people "just isn't true... We can't get their financial data. I think it's because they have very little money and very little influence." During a CNN interview, Jerry Falwell would go on record saying, "[Haggard] doesn't really lead the movement. He's president of an association that's very loose-knit... and no one has looked to them for leadership."[40] White House spokesman Tony Fratto sought to downplay Haggard's influence on the White House by saying that Haggard was only occasionally part of the weekly calls between evangelical leaders and the White House and had visited there only "a couple" of times.[41]

James Dobson, however, issued another public statement saying he was "heartsick" of learning about Haggard's admissions and that "the possibility that an illicit relationship has occurred is alarming to us and to millions of others." He also stated that "[Haggard] will continue to be my friend, even if the worst allegations prove accurate" and "nevertheless, sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, has serious consequences."[42]

[edit] Admission and removal from job

The "Overseer Board of New Life Church" released a prepared statement on the afternoon of November 4, 2006 that stated: "Our investigation and Pastor Haggard's public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct." The board cited the bylaws of the mega-church and said his conduct compelled them to remove him from his job.

During a New Life Church service on Sunday, November 5, 2006 another pastor read a letter from Haggard that stated:

Ted Haggard
I am so sorry for the circumstances that have caused shame and embarrassment for all of you.... The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life.... The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry.

Ted Haggard

— Ted Haggard, letter to New Life Church[43]

Haggard went on to say that his removal was permanent, and that until a new senior pastor could be found, Ross Parsley, the Associate Senior Pastor, would hold that position.

Haggard is to be counseled by a team including Jack Hayford and Tommy Barnett who intend to "perform a thorough analysis of Haggard’s mental, spiritual, emotional and physical life", including the use of polygraph tests.[44] The team was to include James Dobson, who later stepped aside, citing time constraints.[45]