Perry’s campaign first said “the governor doesn’t judge what is in the heart and soul of others,” but then issued a statement that “he does not believe [Mormonism] is a cult.” That bare-bones remark has done little, however, to assuage Huntsman, who flatly called Jeffress a “moron.” “The fact that, you know, some moron can stand up and make a comment like that, you know, first of all, it’s outrageous,” Huntsman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. When asked how he thought Perry should react, Huntsman declared, “Make an immediate and decisive break. Period”:
HUNTSMAN: Make an immediate and decisive break. Period. This kind of talk, I think, has no home in American politics these days. Anyone who has associated with someone willing to make those comments ought to stand up and distance themselves in very bold language and that hasn’t been done — and Rick ought to stand up and do that.
Many among the right share Huntsman’s feelings. Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman and host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, ripped Jeffress in a Politico op-ed yesterday: “Modern American politics as practiced by Jeffress and his ilk require that Jesus Christ be thrown under the bus with great regularity by the very same people who claim His name.” President George W. Bush’s adviser Karl Rove slammed Jeffress’s comment as “a terrible mistake” that “doesn’t belong in politics.” “I wish Perry was a little bit stronger in denouncing this,” he added, saying it’s fair game to hold candidates accountable for their introducer’s remarks. Former Reagan official and conservative radio host Bill Bennett used his speaking slot at the Values Voters conference to also attack Jefferss’ “bigotry.” Romney has remained silent about Jeffress’s comment.
Perry himself did say that he does not think Mormonism is a cult, but “he did not outright denounce” Jeffress’ comments. Of course, Perry has yet to denounce any of this supporter’s incendiary remarks, including his belief that “Jews, Mormons, Muslims and gays are going to hell” or that Islam “promotes pedophilia.”
In April, Fox & Friends legitimized Jeffress by bringing him on to fan the flames of President Obama’s mythical “war on Easter.”