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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 15752

Reported Deaths: 739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds100625
Lauderdale73862
Madison72423
Scott65012
Neshoba64639
Jones62928
Forrest56438
DeSoto5427
Rankin4398
Holmes42928
Leake42712
Copiah3124
Jackson30813
Attala29817
Yazoo2814
Newton2714
Leflore26431
Lincoln26329
Harrison2587
Monroe25725
Oktibbeha23912
Lamar2385
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Wayne2041
Pike20311
Adams19915
Noxubee1866
Washington1787
Warren17310
Covington1652
Jasper1634
Bolivar16211
Lee1536
Smith15211
Kemper14411
Clarke14418
Lafayette1364
Chickasaw13512
Coahoma1254
Carroll11711
Winston1171
Marion1159
Clay1124
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Tate941
Grenada943
Yalobusha935
Hancock9111
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Montgomery851
Sunflower843
Union835
Marshall833
Jefferson Davis773
Tippah7311
Panola713
Webster692
Calhoun654
Amite641
Humphreys607
Walthall560
Tunica553
Prentiss533
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Pontotoc353
Quitman330
Tishomingo320
Stone300
Franklin292
Tallahatchie271
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene131
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18150

Reported Deaths: 644
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2239116
Jefferson1837102
Montgomery171040
Tuscaloosa78315
Marshall6939
Franklin5567
Lee54833
Shelby51720
Tallapoosa42765
Butler41118
Chambers35525
Walker3542
Elmore3548
Madison3394
Baldwin2909
Morgan2801
Dallas2723
Etowah25711
DeKalb2483
Lowndes24612
Coffee2361
Sumter2247
Autauga2214
Houston2204
Bullock2095
Pike2030
Colbert1842
Hale1739
Russell1710
Marengo1706
Barbour1671
Lauderdale1642
Calhoun1603
Choctaw1538
Wilcox1487
Clarke1442
Cullman1430
Randolph1277
St. Clair1231
Marion12211
Pickens1164
Dale1150
Talladega1135
Limestone1060
Chilton1011
Greene944
Winston900
Macon824
Henry802
Covington801
Jackson782
Crenshaw753
Bibb751
Washington706
Escambia633
Blount621
Lawrence500
Geneva430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Monroe402
Perry390
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Columbus
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 76°
Oxford
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
Starkville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather