I’m an early morning runner, and thanks to a dandy smartphone app called TuneIn Radio, I often listen to various talk radio shows underway during my workout. Today I happened to tune in to the Laura Ingraham Show just as she was interviewing Paul Ryan. The following exchange took place and (thanks to TuneIn Radio, which has a DVR-like function that allows me to record a show right off the air), I’ve transcribed it for our dear readers:
INGRAHAM: Congressman Ryan, over the last week or so both NBC and CNN have done stories – NBC has done a whole hour – on the Mormon faith. This is a clip from the CNN story on Mormonism. Let’s listen.
“The suspicion that as president Romney might take orders from the church derives from Mormon history. Church presidents are considered prophets. In 1843 a prophet’s divine revelation led to polygamy, and it was then abolished in 1890. So what if today’s president had a major revelation. Could that influence a Romney White House?”
INGRAHAM: Do you find this to be veiled anti-Mormon bigotry right before this Republican National Convention, in the story of Mitt Romney unfolding?
RYAN: You and I are both Catholics; and It reminds me of what was said about Jack Kennedy when he was running for president, about whether he was going to take orders from the Pope and things like that. I thought we got beyond this. America is a system of pluralism, religious freedom, religious tolerance, we’re beyond that. And so I just don’t think people are going to fall for stuff like that. You know, it just reminds me of the stories I heard from my parents and grandparents about Catholic bigotry when I was growing up. We’re beyond that now for the most part these days, I think, and it surprises me that folks who generally try to preach tolerance would stoke such flames, but this is just petty stuff and I’m not really that worried about it.
Well, I am a little worried about it. With reports like the above from CNN, and this op-ed from the New York Times (“Why Race Is Still a Problem for Mormons”), it is now very easy for presidential debate moderators like Jim Lehrer (or any other news media interviewer in a high-profile setting) to ask questions like these:
“Governor Romney, it was recently reported on CNN that there is concern about your fidelity to your church’s leaders — who are considered prophets — influencing your decisions as president. How do you respond to that concern?”
“Governor, a recent New York Times opinion piece focused on the claim, raised by some, that although in 1978 your church changed its former policy barring African-Americans from serving in the church’s lay priesthood, the church has yet to apologize for that former policy. How do you respond to that concern?”
I’m hopeful that the debate moderators will not succumb to that temptation. I’m also certain that Romney will be ready with an answer. What will be interesting is how the questions and responses are reported and what Americans think of them. We may find out that, as Congressman Ryan states, “we’re beyond that now.”