Mitt Romney's speech at the Values Voter Summit this morning the final one from a presidential candidate this weekend was particularly highly-anticipated because of the discussion of Romney's religion that erupted yesterday after Pastor Robert Jeffress implied that Romney wasn't a "genuine follower of Jesus Christ" and later told reporters that Mormonism was a "cult." Additionally, in what seems like an intentionally mischievous scheduling decision, speaking after Romney this morning would be Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who has said that Mormons are not Christians and that the First Amendment doesn't apply to them.
Would Romney address these remarks? Yes and no, it turns out. Near the end of his speech, after a long section relentlessly bashing President Obama's presidency (Solyndra was mentioned multiple times) and another section laying out his views on marriage and abortion, Romney, somewhat obscurely, finally got to the big, anti-Mormon elephant in the room. From his prepared remarks:
“Our values ennoble the citizen and strengthen the nation. We should remember that decency and civility are values too. One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line, I think. Poisonous language doesn’t advance our cause. It’s never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate. The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us - let no agenda, narrow our vision or drive us apart.”
He was greeted with slightly delayed, mild applause. Romney was clearly referring to Fischer, but we're not sure many people in the room had any idea what he was talking about. Jeffress's anti-Mormon remarks from yesterday are a much bigger story than Fischer's anti-Mormon remarks from the past, but for whatever reason, Romney left Jeffress alone.
Next up on stage was Fischer, who immediately proclaimed that the next president must be of "sincere, authentic, genuine, Christian faith."