During the Q&A session following Chris Christie’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, the New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate responded to questions about a controversial statement about Mormonism made by rival Rick Perry supporter Dr. Robert Jeffress.
Jeffress, who is pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, called Mormonism a “cult.”
“I don’t believe that that kind of divisiveness based upon religion has a place in this country,” Romney added. “I would call upon Governor Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks of that Pastor.”
Romney slammed Rick Perry for saying Jeffress’s introduction that slighted Romney “hit it out of the park” and explained that the Constitution gave him the freedom to run for President regardless of faith.
“I believe in the spirit of the founders when they suggested in crafting this country that we would be a nation that tolerated other people, different faiths, that we’d be a place of religious diversity and respect they embodied in the constitution itself. In Article Six of the Constitution, saying a religious test would not be part of selecting a candidate. I believe in the spirit of that embodiment and in the nature of the nation that’s been crafted.”
“I think that any campaign that associates itself with that type of conduct is beneath the office of the President United States,” Christie added.
Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan, however, told NBC News that Romney’s call for Perry to disavow the controversial pastor is merely an attempt to “change the subject.”
Perry’s campaign then added fuel to the fire in a written statement challenging Romney to “repudiate government-mandated health care as crafted in Romneycare.”
“The governor has publicly disagreed with [Robert Jeffress’s] characterization,” Sullivan said. “We have no control over who endorses, supports, or votes for the governor.”
With these developments, the stage has now been set for Tuesday night’s GOP debate, where the sparks will undoubtedly fly.
Watch Romney and Christie deliver their remarks: