Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Kennedy is clarifying an apology he gave to a Texas pastor who has made inflammatory comments about Mormonism and other religions.
Robert Jeffress presides over a Dallas megachurch and is known for his controversial statements about other religions.
“Religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” he said in a 2008 sermon.
Jeffress gave the opening prayer at the dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in Israel earlier this month, a decision Mitt Romney condemned on Twitter. The primary favorite called the Texan a “religious bigot.”
Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,“ and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) May 14, 2018
In response, Romney’s upcoming primary opponent Mike Kennedy called the pastor to apologize for the former Massachusetts governor’s tweet. On Sunday, Jeffress appeared on Fox News and said he got a call from Kennedy last Friday.
“He called to apologize on behalf of the state of Utah for Mitt Romney’s intemperate comments about me,” Jefferess said.
But after social media backlash, Kennedy walked back the apology, saying he was misinterpreted by some media outlets. On Tuesday night Kennedy released a partial recording of his phone call with Jeffress.
“I, first, would just like reach out and say I apologize on behalf of the governor’s statements,” Kennedy said on the recording. “I do not share those and I think most of us would not classify you in those inflammatory terms that he used.”
The Kennedy campaign declined to release the entire phone call.
Jason Perry, Director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, says the entire issue was a “major miscalculation” by Kennedy.
“I’ve not really seen a time in the recent past where anyone was looking for a politician to apologize for them,” he said.
Perry believes Kennedy could have found a better way to differentiate himself from Romney, who enjoys wide name recognition after two unsuccessful presidential bids.