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LDS reporter who worked on Newsweek's 'Mormon Moment' story defends controversial cover

Published: Thursday, June 9 2011 10:00 a.m. MDT

With the controversy over Newsweek's "Mormon Moment" cover (which features Mitt Romney's head photoshopped onto a leaping LDS missionary from "The Book of Mormon" musical), it shouldn't be surprising that someone would confront one of the article's co-authors about it during a live chat event on the Internet.

A poster named Danny asked a question on Wednesday during the Daily Beast/Newsweek live chat to McKay Coppins — a Newsweek and Daily Beast staffer, active Mormon and former writer for the Deseret News and Mormon Times: "How much collaboration went on between the authors of the article and the designers of the cover? Because the article seems to talk about how Mormons are shaping culture and making a difference, and Romney seems like the most boring, stereotypical Mormon/Republican out there. So there seemed to be a disconnect between the cover and the article."

Coppins previously was quoted Monday in an article in the Deseret News saying, "Don't judge the story by its cover alone." In Wednesday's live chat event he defended the cover: "The cover image of Romney's head grafted on to the body of a dancing Mormon missionary in The BOM musical was meant to illustrate the Mormon moment we're experiencing. What better way than to combine the GOP frontrunner (who's a Mormon) and the biggest Mormon-themed event in pop culture (the musical)."

Coppins said the authors didn't have a say in the cover and that he understood why some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might have been shocked at first. "But if you give it another chance, I think you'll see that there's legitimate reason behind it."

He also said that even if "Danny" thought Romney was boring or stereotypical, Romney could be the next president, "So we think he's pretty influential."

Danny's question about a disconnect was a very different take on the cover controversy than that of most conservative Internet pundits this week. NewsBusters.org described the cover this way: "Newsweek mocked Mitt Romney's Mormonism as they promoted the vulgar 'South Park' musical 'The Book of Mormon.'" The Wrap said "Along with a provocative title, "Mormons Rock!" the piece is drawing scorn from media talking heads and the far right for its eye-catching cover." Under a headline that proclaimed "Conservatives Outraged Over Mag Cover Mocking Romney, Mormonism," Newsmax called it "bizarre" and "insulting to a major American faith community."

Not a lot of chatter about "the most boring, stereotypical Mormon/Republican."

The rest of the live chat didn't address the creation of the Newsweek article directly. Instead it was about issues raised by the article.

Coppins responded to questions like, "You seem like a bright guy. Why are you Mormon?" People asked about pop culture stereotypes, Jon Huntsman Jr.'s statements about his beliefs, whether a candidate's faith should matter, changing attitudes of evangelicals towards Mormons and the role of LDS prophets and politics.

A poll of people who participated in the live chat event asked, "Is America ready for a Mormon president?" Thirty-four percent chose "Yes, of course," 12 percent chose "No, not right now," 27 percent chose "Maybe" and 27 percent chose "Who cares about a candidate's faith?!"

Coppins used the reaction to the cover as a gauge for another question — whether Mormons were ready for a Mormon president. "Those Mormons who are deeply offended by Newsweek's cover image/story probably aren't ready themselves for a Mormon president," he said. "This ain't nothing compared to some of the vitriol the LDS Church will face if Romney/Huntsman actually IS elected."

Email: mdegroote@desnews.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/degroote

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