Bannon’s comments on Romney’s Mormon faith get an angry response in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- Former presidential advisor Steve Bannon's remarks about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith are prompting an angry backlash in Utah.

Speaking at a rally for embattled Alabama Republican senate candidate Roy Moore, Bannon went on the attack on Romney (who has been critical of Moore).

"You hid behind your religion," he said. "You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam."

Bannon also said "Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in his pinkie finger than your entire family has in his whole DNA."

Speaking to FOX 13 on Wednesday, a visibly upset Utah Governor Gary Herbert called Bannon's remarks "offensive."

"To denigrate the Romney family and their DNA because he happened to serve an LDS mission to France?" he said. "It just shows that Mormon bigotry is alive and well with some people. That's unfortunate for the country and certainly does not reflect well on Steve Bannon."

On Twitter, the governor called for Bannon to "stay out" of Utah politics.

Online and in public comments, political leaders across Utah responded to Bannon's remarks. Sen. Orrin Hatch tweeted an offer of a Book of Mormon:

 

Sen. Mike Lee also pushed back:

Romney has voiced opposition to Moore, who has been accused of initiating sexual contact with a 14-year-old, sexually assaulting a 16-year-old and pursuing relationships with teenage girls while he was in his 30s.

Mitt Romney - Twitter

Congresswoman Mia Love called Romney a friend and referred to Bannon's remarks as "unacceptable."

Congressman John Curtis called Bannon's attack on Romney's faith "an indefensible disgrace." He also appeared to level some criticism at those in his own party defending Moore.

"To have any future, a political party must be about more than political expediency. It must have fundamental convictions and commitments. Elections are not only about the present moment; they are also about who we are as a people and who we want to be in the future," he said in a statement. "No vote and no majority is worth losing our integrity and our convictions. We have a duty to stand up for those who have been victimized. Let me be perfectly clear, I believe that these victims are courageous heroes, and I hope the people of Alabama will hold Judge Roy Moore accountable on Election Day."

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (who is challenging Love for congress) accused Bannon of trying to dictate Utah politics from Alabama.

"Steve Bannon thinks he can weigh in and come in and pick Utah's elected officials," Mayor McAdams said. "Steve Bannon and his way of politics are not welcome here in Utah."

Bannon has been trying to recruit a candidate to challenge Sen. Hatch. Romney -- who has been outspoken at times against President Trump -- has been contemplating jumping in if Hatch should retire from the Senate.

But even the man whom Bannon had some initial discussions about a Senate challenge was defending Romney.

"The Bannon comments really reflect what's wrong with politics in America right now," Sutherland Institute President Boyd Matheson said in an interview with FOX 13 on Wednesday, adding: "Mitt Romney has been rock solid, immovable on the principles. Principles of morality, civility and human decency."