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UT-Sen: Did Romney challenger apologize on behalf of Utah for Mitt's remarks about Robert Jeffress?

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is seeking the Republican Senate nomination in Utah. His GOP opponent has denied apologizing on behalf of Utah for Romney's remarks about Baptist preacher Robert Jeffress. (George Frey/Getty Images)

When Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney slammed the Trump administration for letting Pastor Robert Jeffress speak at the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Romney's opponent in the Utah Senate race, Dr. Mike Kennedy apologized to Jeffress.

Jeffress said that Kennedy had done this on behalf of the entire state. Now Kennedy has put out a clarification saying that he did apologize, but not “on behalf of the state of Utah” for Romney's condemnation of Jeffress.

What happened?

President Donald Trump invited Jeffress to speak at the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, sits on Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board and White House Faith Initiative.

That same day, Romney tweeted that Jeffress — who has said in the past that "Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell" — was a “religious bigot” who “should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”

What did Jeffress say?

Jeffress responded in a Fox News interview, saying this those statements were “taken out of context,” but that he believed that his views were in line with Biblical Christianity.

During the interview Jeffress said that Kennedy, Romney's opponent, had personally called him and apologized “on behalf of the state of Utah.”

On May 20, Kennedy posted a link to that interview on Facebook, with the text:

This week I had a conversation with Pastor Robert Jeffress regarding recent comments about him that were made by my opponent. I expressed my desire to work together on the important issues of the day in spite of the fact that differences in theology do exist between us. We agreed that as people of faith, our religious freedoms are regularly under attack from various groups and that we should find more reasons to unite and fewer reasons to divide our religious communities. I am committed to working to protect our religious liberties and stand against intolerance.

However, on Tuesday, two days after the Facebook post, Kennedy issued a statement saying that while he had apologized to Jeffress,  he had not done so on behalf of his entire state.

Kennedy's campaign office told TheBlaze that Deseret News, a Utah publication owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, got the initial statement wrong, leading to the confusion.

The representative for the campaign clarified that Kennedy was not apologizing on behalf of the state of Utah, but was instead offering Jeffress a personal apology for Romney's “inflammatory” remark when he called Jeffress a "bigot."

When Romney ran for president in 2012, Jeffress urged Christians not to vote for him because of his Mormonism. Kennedy is also Mormon.

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