Gaffe Track: Is Mitt a Mormon? Yeah, We're Pretty Sure

Steve Marcus / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Donald Trump

The gaffe: Here’s Trump in Salt Lake City Friday: “I have many friends that live in Salt Lake. I have a lot of friends, I have a lot of friends. By the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them. Did he choke? Did this guy choke? He’s a choke artist, I can’t believe. Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?”

The defense: This was delivered in the course of a classic Trump riff, in which he referred to a group with a definite article (“the blacks,” “this Hispanics”) while inadvertently suggesting he has no real connection to them. “I have a couple of friends, I have actually one who’s Jewish and he loves ... the Mormons, he loves the Mormons.” You… have a friend who knows Mormons? OK, dude.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Yeah, we’re pretty sure Romney is a Mormon. He’s from a long line of Mormons, has been open about his faith, and served as a bishop. Besides, why would he lie about it? The sometimes offensive, often awkward questions asked of Romney ran for president in 2012 show why he’d be unlikely to fake his faith as a lark. There’s not a great deal of polling for Tuesday’s Utah caucuses, but Trump is trailing, and this can’t help.

The lesson: Trump’s feint ain’t gonna taint this Latter Day Saint.