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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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 516486

Reported Deaths: 10299
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison35042558
DeSoto33463432
Hinds32797643
Jackson24926392
Rankin22593405
Lee16523245
Madison14978283
Jones14191248
Forrest13852260
Lauderdale12326323
Lowndes11387193
Lamar10713140
Pearl River9759244
Lafayette8881143
Hancock7848132
Washington7561169
Oktibbeha7234138
Monroe7091179
Pontotoc7060110
Warren6892178
Panola6807135
Neshoba6753210
Marshall6735142
Bolivar6472151
Union645699
Alcorn5950108
Pike5947157
Lincoln5544136
George511080
Prentiss510185
Tippah497983
Itawamba4903107
Scott479499
Tate4786118
Adams4784125
Leflore4756144
Yazoo458492
Copiah458395
Simpson4577117
Wayne443772
Covington435395
Sunflower4331106
Marion4311112
Coahoma4259110
Leake414491
Newton396182
Tishomingo388894
Grenada3796109
Stone366466
Attala341690
Jasper341566
Chickasaw319167
Winston318892
Clay313978
Clarke301995
Calhoun288950
Holmes273389
Smith270852
Yalobusha245847
Tallahatchie232653
Greene225449
Walthall222166
Lawrence220842
Perry214656
Amite210357
Webster206748
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182757
Carroll175841
Jefferson Davis174643
Tunica163939
Benton153439
Kemper145541
Choctaw137827
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132339
Franklin126630
Quitman107928
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97334
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 848779

Reported Deaths: 16185
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1164582005
Mobile744601384
Madison53563738
Shelby38454371
Baldwin38215589
Tuscaloosa36172644
Montgomery34573782
Lee25690264
Calhoun22636520
Morgan22548411
Etowah20075520
Marshall18865318
Houston17795426
St. Clair16968359
Limestone16206220
Cullman16170306
Elmore15952295
Lauderdale15093307
Talladega14267302
DeKalb13095271
Walker12180380
Blount10791193
Autauga10562157
Jackson10221196
Coffee9440192
Colbert9376210
Dale9049192
Tallapoosa7287202
Russell711465
Chilton7098170
Covington6973197
Escambia6969144
Franklin6369108
Chambers5810142
Marion5446132
Dallas5306210
Pike5135109
Clarke486086
Lawrence4852130
Winston4804110
Geneva4656136
Bibb436495
Barbour370880
Butler3445101
Marengo342993
Monroe338566
Randolph338067
Pickens335090
Fayette332285
Henry321266
Cherokee320564
Hale319589
Crenshaw261878
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay253169
Macon246367
Conecuh193562
Coosa186048
Wilcox178538
Lowndes178468
Bullock152845
Perry141940
Sumter139841
Greene130745
Choctaw94628
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