Voters will reject attacks on his Mormon faith, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday in response to a question raised about his beliefs by rival Mike Huckabee.
"I think attacking someone's religion is really going too far. It's just not the American way and I think people will reject that," Romney told NBC's "Today Show" about Huckabee's asking whether Mormons believe Jesus and the devil are brothers.
"That's been something that's leveled at our church over many, many years," Romney said of the comment made by Huckabee in an article to be published Sunday in The New York Times magazine found here.
Huckabee said he apologized to Romney for the comment after Wednesday's Republican presidential debate in Iowa. "I said, 'I would never try, ever to try to somehow pick out some point of your faith and make it an issue,' and I wouldn't," Huckabee said to CNN.
The former Arkansas governor also said he told Romney that he didn't "think your being a Mormon ought to make you more or less qualified for being a president" and that Romney was "gracious."
Romney's campaign said the apology was accepted.
Huckabee told the cable news channel his question about Jesus and the devil wasn't intended "to create something I never thought it would make the story." He said it came up because the New York Times interviewer "was telling me things about the Mormon faith."
The newspaper's lengthy profile of Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister who is surging in popularity among voters in Iowa as well as nationally, notes the name of former Iowa front-runner Romney went unmentioned in the interview.
Huckabee, described as calling himself the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, was asked if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. He answered, "I think it's a religion. I really don't know much about it."
Then, the author of the article, Zev Chafets, wrote, "I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: 'Don't Mormons,' he asked in an innocent voice, 'believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?'"
Romney said on the "Today Show" that he has "the highest respect for Mike Huckabee and I'm certainly not going to go after him. ... I think he's a good man and he's trying to do the best that he can."
Voters, Romney said, are not going to choose a president "based upon their faith or what church they go to." The former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and former governor of Massachusetts said again Wednesday he would not distance himself from his faith.
When asked why he mentioned the word "Mormon" only once during his Dec. 6 speech on "Faith in America," Romney said, "actually we prefer the name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon used to be a nickname and I don't use it a lot."
Huckabee's wasn't the only comment made about Mormonism to surface after Romney's speech at the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, that was intended to confront concerns about his membership in the LDS Church. On Dec. 7, Lawrence O'Donnell, a panelist on "The McLaughlin Group," said Romney didn't take advantage in his speech of the "opportunity to distance himself from the evils of his religion," calling the faith "racist" and "ridiculous."
Neither the LDS Church nor Romney have responded to O'Donnell's statements. The LDS Church did issue a statement earlier in the week in response to Huckabee's question about Jesus and the devil."We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what He stands for," the LDS Church statement read.