Mitt Romney has been reluctant thus far to address controversial comments from a supporter of Rick Perry equating the Mormon religion with a cult. Jon Huntsman -- not so much.
In an interview with CNN on Monday afternoon, the former Utah governor, who, like Romney, is a Mormon, called Pastor Robert Jeffress a "moron" (video below).
"The fact that some moron can stand up and make a comment like that ... [is] outrageous," Huntsman told Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "Anyone who is associated with someone willing to make those comments ought to distance themselves in very bold language."
Jeffress, a prominent Dallas pastor, endorsed Perry on Friday. Introducing him at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Jeffress called the Texas governor "a true conservative" and "a genuine follower of Jesus Christ."
Speaking with reporters afterward, Jeffress called the view that Mormonism is a cult a "mainstream view," and said Romney is "not a born-again follower of Christ."
"I believe that in this contest, which I think is a contest between Perry and Romney, that we ought to prefer a born-again follower of Christ," Jeffress said.
In his speech to the Values Voter Summit, Romney did not refer specifically to Jeffress' comments but applauded another speaker, William Bennett, who had condemned Jeffress' "bigotry." Speaking about another conservative leader, Romney said that "poisonous language doesn't advance our cause."
Huntsman has in the past seemed to downplay his Mormon faith. Asked by Time magazine whether he was still a member of the church, he responded: "That's tough to define." But asked that same month whether he was still a "practicing" Mormon, he told George Stephanopoulos: "I believe in God. I'm a good Christian. I'm very proud of my Mormon heritage. I am Mormon."
Huntsman was speaking from New Hampshire, where he outlined his foreign policy platform earlier Monday. He told CNN that voters should "stick to the big issues that really matter and leave religion off the table."
"Last I looked, that wasn't a prerequisite or a requirement for the presidency," he said.
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