(Christopher Gannon/MCT )
The Iowa political director for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign resigned Tuesday after he suggested that evangelical pastors would oppose Mitt Romney as a candidate for president to “expose the cult of Mormon.”
Craig Bergman made the remarks at a focus group last week, before he had joined Gingrich’s campaign.
“There is a national pastor who is very much on the anti-Romney bandwagon,” Bergman said at the focus group , which was hosted by McClatchy Newspapers and TheIowaRepublican.com. “A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon…There’s a thousand pastors ready to do that.”
At the time, Bergman was speaking as an undecided voter, The Iowa Republican’s editor, Craig Robinson, told The Des Moines Register.
At that same focus group, Bergman called Gingrich “the smartest unwise man in America.”
Bergman agreed Tuesday “to step away from his role with Newt 2012,” spokesman R.C. Hammond said in a statement.
“He made a comment to a focus group prior to becoming an employee that is inconsistent with Newt 2012's pledge to run a positive and solutions-orientated campaign,” Hammond said.
Before Bergman left the campaign, Linda Upmeyer, chairwoman for Gingrich’s Iowa campaign, told the Register that she had “never had any discussion that resembled that with Speaker Gingrich.”
A November poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that “white evangelical Protestants – a key element of the GOP electoral base – are more inclined than the public as a whole to view Mormonism as a non-Christian faith.”
But “there is no evidence that Romney’s Mormon faith would prevent rank-and-file Republicans, including white evangelicals, from coalescing around him if he wins the GOP nomination,” according to the study. “Rather, the same Republicans who may have doubts about Romney’s faith are among the most vehement opponents of Barack Obama.”