Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
FILE - Mike Kennedy talks to the media after the Utah Republican Party state convention at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, April 21, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — State Rep. Mike Kennedy, now says he did not apologize on behalf of all Utahns to a pastor whom his GOP U.S. Senate primary opponent Mitt Romney called a "religious bigot" for statements about the LDS Church and other faiths.

Yet Texas Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress said last Sunday on CNN that Kennedy had "called to apologize on behalf of the state of Utah for Mitt Romney's intemperate comments about me."

Kennedy, R-Alpine, published a link to that interview on his Facebook page.

Monday, when Kennedy was asked by the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards if he had apologized to Jeffress on behalf of the state, he said, "On behalf of what I perceive the state is, I did."

When asked a second time about "speaking on behalf of all Utahns" when he apologized to Jeffress, Kennedy told the boards: "I think our people are forgiving" and that "the people of Utah are above casting terms such as bigotry around at other people."

Kennedy's campaign released what it says is a "snippet" of a tape of Kennedy's side of the phone call with Jeffress, but declined to provide a copy to the Deseret News of the entire conversation, despite initially saying that it would do so. Another voice, presumably Jeffress, can be heard in the background but it is unintelligible.

In the 50-second snippet, Kennedy is heard saying he "would just like to reach out and say I apologize on behalf of the governor's statements. I do not share those and I think most of us would not classify you in those inflammatory terms that he used."

Kennedy's spokeswoman, Cindie Quintana, said Wednesday the campaign is "concerned that something else may be plucked from it (the phone conversation) and something inaccurate may be shared that isn't the case. … There is nothing to hide."

She said the campaign does not want the tape shared with the public.

Quintana said it was originally the campaign's intention to release the entire tape, "but since we've had time to think about, especially after yesterday, we just don't know what purpose that would serve."

Coverage of the call, she said, has been "hurtful to the campaign. We're just trying to rectify and trying to move forward. We really want to move past this. We thought sending the snippet of the actual comment made would be sufficient."

Quintana also said Kennedy had a full schedule Wednesday and would not be available for an interview.

Kennedy said in a statement Tuesday that he was asked about the call by the editorial boards and he had "spoken to multiple media sources over the last week, which can make it difficult to remember each conversation verbatim."

He said the audio snippet "clarifies my comments word for word." Kennedy said he believes "a misunderstanding has taken place in this instance."

36 comments on this story

The call followed a news conference held by Kennedy last week to criticize Romney's May 13 tweet about Jeffress being selected by President Donald Trump to deliver a prayer to open the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

"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," Romney tweeted.

Kennedy told the editorial boards he found "it embarrassing that my opponent would label him as a religious bigot" and described his call with Jeffress as "really positive. He sounds like a very decent fellow."