Moments before Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was to take the stage Saturday at a gathering of social conservatives in Washington, a former Reagan administration official decried the “bigotry” of another speaker’s criticism of Romney’s faith.
In an address to the Values Voters Summit, Bill Bennett took aim at Robert Jeffress, the Dallas pastor who after introducing GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry to the same event on Friday, told reporters that Romney’s Mormon religion is a “cult” and an obstacle to the former Massachusetts governor’s efforts to win the Republican presidential nomination.
In Iowa afterward, Perry told reporters he did not agree with Jeffress.
Bennett went further in his comments.
“Do not give voice to bigotry,” he urged the audience. Referring to the other presidential candidates who addressed the Values Voters Summit, a gathering organized by the conservtive Family Research Council’s political arm, Bennett added:
“I would say to Pastor Jeffress: ‘You stepped on and obscured the words of Perry and (former Sen. Rick) Santorum and (businessman Herman) Cain and (Rep. Michele) Bachmann and everyone else who has spoken here. You did Rick Perry no good, sir, in what you had to say.’”
Bennett served as the late President Reagan’s secretary of education and as headed former President George H.W. Bush’s war on drugs. He now hosts a radio talk show.