During Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign for president BYU professor Randy Bott made headlines in a Washington Post article discussing racial teachings. It turns out that the LDS Church’s silence on racial issues contributed to a misunderstanding of racial teachings, and embarrassed Bott, Romney, and the LDS Church. Dr. Matt Harris and Dr. Newell Bringhurst tell us more about this unfortunate incident.
Matt: The Church is on high alert over two issues during the Mitt Romney campaign, one is polygamy and one is race. These are two issues that they had been rehearsing about. They had been talking about how to deal with it to the media when these inevitable questions would come about polygamy and race. Randy Bott is a well-respected BYU Professor. He made a fateful mistake in the spring of 2012, when he opened up his door to entertain a Washington Post reporter named Jason Horowitz. I interviewed with Horowitz actually and I said…
GT: Oh really?
Matt: Yes, I have him on record. I quote him in my next book.
GT: Oh, nice.
Matt: So I said to Horowitz. I said, “Tell me, How did you come across Bott?” He said, “Well, I just went to BYU, and I didn’t have an appointment.” He probably should have let the administration know that he was coming because this is a high-profile campaign. This is a BYU graduate, a high-profile Mormon person, Mitt Romney. So, Horowitz didn’t do that. He just went to the religion building and started knocking on doors.
GT: No way. (Chuckling)
Matt: There’s a policy at BYU that you’re supposed to go through this protocol to talk to people about certain high profile issues. This certainly would have been one of them, a Washington Post reporter. This wasn’t from the Provo Daily Herald. This is the Washington Post. So, he knocks on a door and one of the professors opens up the door. “I’m Jason Horowitz, Washington Post. Can I interview you about Mitt Romney? I just want some stuff about Mitt Romney.” The first professor says, “Oh, I can’t talk to you because you didn’t go through the protocols.” He knocks on another door. He went through a handful of this door knocking when they just said, “No, we can’t talk to you.” Randy Bott says, “Sure, come on in.” So, keep in mind, it wasn’t a gotcha story. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I heard Mormons have some weird things to say about race. Let me try to get them on record and embarrass their candidate.” It wasn’t that at all. Horowitz flew to Provo because he wanted to do a story on Mitt Romney. That’s all it was.
Matt: So, he told him “We’re just going to do a story of Mitt Romney.” Bott said, “Okay, fine.” He said, “I want to ask you about his faith,” all of that. So, the first part of this story that Horowitz told me, he said it was pretty normal. We were just talking about Mitt Romney and the Mormon faith and what Mormons believe and all of this stuff. Then Randy Bott starts talking about race and how black people could not hold the priesthood. It would be like giving keys to a child to drive a car. They weren’t ready. I mean, it was so humiliating. I asked Horowitz. I said, “What did you think when he started telling you about black people being cursed and comparing their inability to hold the priesthood to a child driving a car?” He just said, “Oh, I knew there was a story.”
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