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.

Cases: 268672

Reported Deaths: 5917
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17928195
Hinds17030337
Harrison14510212
Rankin11315223
Jackson11054193
Lee9109147
Madison8663171
Jones6853120
Forrest6260125
Lauderdale6161196
Lowndes5582123
Lafayette5269101
Lamar508765
Washington4965125
Bolivar4164110
Oktibbeha411585
Panola389881
Pontotoc380460
Monroe3727111
Warren3716103
Marshall360172
Union360165
Pearl River3527106
Neshoba3516158
Leflore3132110
Lincoln308389
Hancock300963
Sunflower294277
Tate281862
Alcorn274055
Pike272984
Itawamba271263
Scott264055
Yazoo258456
Prentiss255454
Coahoma252455
Copiah251549
Tippah251551
Simpson244872
Leake238967
Marion228274
Covington224873
Grenada224673
Wayne216336
Adams216271
Winston208271
George206440
Newton201447
Attala197465
Tishomingo196361
Chickasaw190245
Jasper183138
Holmes172568
Clay168637
Tallahatchie158035
Stone153625
Clarke148762
Calhoun142022
Smith131926
Yalobusha124935
Walthall115438
Greene114929
Noxubee114526
Montgomery112936
Lawrence107917
Carroll106922
Perry105931
Amite102727
Webster98024
Claiborne90125
Tunica89621
Jefferson Davis89330
Benton86923
Humphreys85625
Kemper81220
Quitman7169
Franklin71017
Choctaw64013
Wilkinson60125
Jefferson57321
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1616
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 445909

Reported Deaths: 6896
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson651891049
Mobile32138590
Madison28596223
Tuscaloosa21703276
Montgomery20220336
Shelby19584138
Baldwin17496216
Lee13378109
Morgan12741145
Etowah12196189
Calhoun11626228
Marshall10513126
Houston9097168
Limestone842481
Cullman8363125
Elmore8283112
Lauderdale7986112
DeKalb7935112
St. Clair7915139
Talladega6552112
Walker6068184
Jackson605649
Colbert560194
Blount551794
Autauga544065
Coffee470569
Dale415186
Franklin378150
Russell362816
Chilton348079
Covington344681
Escambia342244
Tallapoosa3184109
Dallas314197
Chambers308575
Clarke307339
Pike267735
Lawrence256958
Marion255763
Winston235243
Bibb224751
Geneva214747
Marengo212031
Pickens201831
Barbour188240
Hale187444
Fayette181230
Butler175960
Cherokee167433
Henry161325
Monroe153521
Randolph148236
Washington144027
Clay131050
Crenshaw126245
Macon124337
Cleburne123627
Lamar121324
Lowndes117636
Wilcox109422
Bullock105829
Perry100518
Conecuh98222
Sumter90828
Greene78323
Coosa64619
Choctaw52224
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