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Steve Bannon's shameful dog whistle

As incredible as it may sound, Steve Bannon has hit a new low. He was in Alabama on Tuesday, stumping for Senate can...

Posted: Dec 8, 2017 10:05 AM
Updated: Dec 8, 2017 10:05 AM

As incredible as it may sound, Steve Bannon has hit a new low. He was in Alabama on Tuesday, stumping for Senate candidate Roy Moore, when he lashed out at Mitt Romney, his family, and by implication, an entire religion. Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News, was apparently angry at a tweet by Romney saying Moore in the Senate would be "a stain on the GOP and on the nation."

In response, at a rally that was ostensibly about Moore, Bannon went ballistic on Romney. He ripped into the former Massachusetts governor for not serving in the military. "You hid behind your religion. You went to France as a missionary while men were dying in Vietnam. Do not talk about honor and integrity." He pointed out that none of Romney's five sons served in the military, adding that "Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in his pinky finger than your entire family."

Even for a figure as nihilistic as Bannon, these remarks were shameful. It speaks volumes that Bannon felt the need to go after Romney rather than focusing on a positive message for Moore's candidacy, if such a thing exists. Romney's lack of military service has nothing to do with the Alabama election. Bannon was shrewdly playing to some evangelicals' long-held mistrust of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) -- and getting in a few ugly personal attacks as well.

It is ironic that Bannon would praise Moore's "honor and integrity" over Romney's. Whatever you think of Romney, he has never been accused of sexual misconduct, let alone with teenagers. Unlike Moore, Romney does not hold bigoted views on Muslims. Romney was never removed from public office for defying the laws of our country; Moore was removed from his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to take down a monument of the Ten Commandments (in 2003), and suspended again (in 2016) for flouting the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

Playing the veteran card against Romney is pure hypocrisy on Bannon's part, considering he never denigrated his former boss and continued confidant, President Donald Trump, for his lack of service. Trump received multiple deferments for military service during the Vietnam War, and none of his children served in the military either. And unlike Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who have been involved with their father's campaign and presidency, Romney's sons are private citizens. Leave them out of this.

For the record, many Mormons have served in the military with distinction, including in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Romney was not hiding behind his religion when he could have been wearing a uniform. Missionary service is recommended for Latter-Day Saints Church members who are physically able and mentally capable of serving (including women, now), and it is a commitment that is taken very seriously. Mormon missionaries spend two years away from home, and are allowed only two annual phone calls to their families. While not the same as fighting in a foxhole, Mormon missionary service is noble compared with what Trump has called his "personal Vietnam" -- avoiding sexually transmitted diseases during his single days in the 1990s.

Bannon's remarks about Romney rightfully drew condemnation from Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both Mormons from Utah. Yet what was especially insidious about Bannon's comments was that they were a dog-whistle of religious bigotry.

Some members of the Southern Baptist Church do not accept Mormons as Christians, because of Mormons' belief in the prophet Joseph Smith and his teachings. In taking aim at Romney, Bannon was deliberately reviving these old prejudices and suspicions about a religion that remains unfamiliar to many Americans.

In 2007, when Romney was running for president, a Pew Center study found that the No. 1 term Americans associated with Mormonism was "polygamy," despite the fact that it has been banned by the LDS Church since 1890. A 2012 Pew study found that Mormons reported feeling hostility from evangelical Christians, exactly the type of sentiment that Bannon was attempting to stir up in Alabama.

Sure, Romney is not perfect. Who can forget his infamous "47%" remark that roughly half of Americans pay no taxes, or his call for "self-deportation" of undocumented immigrants? Yet he does not deserve to be slandered by Bannon simply because the Breitbart Bully can't find much good to say about Moore. At least Romney has not feuded with Gold Star families, which is more than can be said for our President.

Bannon's remarks about Romney were divisive and offensive. They perfectly captured his warped, dystopian worldview.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 289303

Reported Deaths: 3434
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin616511100
Ramsey25903487
Anoka20522218
Dakota20096183
Washington13066109
Stearns1291098
St. Louis7935101
Scott782754
Wright702436
Olmsted626134
Sherburne538640
Clay463856
Carver432213
Blue Earth387112
Rice386033
Kandiyohi373819
Crow Wing334631
Nobles298729
Chisago29358
Otter Tail282818
Benton278642
Winona258128
Mower241323
Douglas237631
Polk234423
Morrison219524
Lyon201911
McLeod195610
Beltrami194615
Becker187512
Goodhue185727
Steele17826
Itasca176124
Isanti174316
Todd171612
Carlton165710
Nicollet150823
Freeborn14465
Mille Lacs141630
Le Sueur138110
Waseca134011
Cass12849
Brown125011
Pine12458
Meeker11308
Roseau10503
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Martin101920
Wabasha9611
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Watonwan7984
Cottonwood7682
Renville75119
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Wadena7376
Aitkin69826
Rock6829
Pipestone67818
Houston6422
Fillmore6320
Yellow Medicine59311
Pennington5856
Kanabec54912
Murray5493
Swift5366
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Pope4990
Stevens4643
Clearwater4536
Marshall4438
Jackson4361
Unassigned38759
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Koochiching3535
Wilkin3465
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Norman3227
Lincoln3171
Big Stone2841
Mahnomen2704
Grant2516
Red Lake2033
Kittson1917
Traverse1360
Lake of the Woods931
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 222064

Reported Deaths: 2319
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33019331
Linn13877164
Scott1085683
Black Hawk10730134
Woodbury10159121
Johnson935536
Dubuque907691
Story669721
Dallas624657
Pottawattamie612469
Sioux364625
Webster353033
Marshall343545
Cerro Gordo342644
Clinton319839
Buena Vista300014
Des Moines281719
Muscatine280968
Warren274011
Plymouth268941
Wapello251171
Jones227913
Jasper212443
Marion201719
Lee197916
Carroll195422
Bremer191312
Henry18037
Crawford173015
Benton166217
Tama152240
Jackson142113
Delaware140221
Washington137414
Dickinson134210
Boone134011
Mahaska125327
Wright12156
Buchanan115010
Clay11314
Hardin113010
Page11134
Hamilton10809
Clayton10715
Harrison106129
Cedar104913
Calhoun10487
Kossuth10236
Floyd102216
Mills10177
Fayette10159
Lyon10058
Poweshiek97913
Butler9746
Winneshiek95412
Iowa92312
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Hancock8497
Louisa83916
Grundy83811
Chickasaw8354
Sac8297
Cherokee8134
Cass79721
Appanoose77310
Mitchell7704
Allamakee76811
Union7546
Humboldt7525
Shelby75010
Emmet74724
Guthrie73715
Franklin72921
Jefferson6852
Madison6734
Palo Alto6454
Unassigned6320
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