SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Democratic leaders on Wednesday dismissed Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch's warning to supporters that Democrats might attack the Mormon faith of Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign.
The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, described that suggestion as "preposterous" and "utter nonsense." During an interview with MSNBC, she said the party wouldn't stoop to the same levels as Republicans.
"Let's remember that President Obama has had so many things hurled at him — birth certificate questions, whether he is or is not a Christian," Wasserman Schultz said. "For them to suggest that religion will be injected by President Obama and the Democratic Party, I mean, I think they need to take a look inward at the accusations that their party and their supporters have hurled before they take that step."
Hatch made the remark in response to a question at a political event Tuesday night in northern Utah, said his campaign manager, Dave Hansen. Hatch, also a Mormon, is seeking a seventh term in the Senate.
"He was referring to the possibility that the Obama campaign and friends of Obama will attack the Mormon Church," Hansen said. "We hope we don't see it, but worry we might."
More than 60 percent of Utah residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Romney won the state's 2008 Republican primary with 91 percent of the vote.
The claim by Hatch reflects poorly on Democrats in Utah, especially those who are Mormons, said Craig Janis, who is working for Utah Democratic Party to recruit LDS Church members.
"Divisive and unsubstantiated claims about religion have no place in our debate," Janis said. "This is a country that was founded on the principles of respect and freedom for religion ... we hope that, going forward, Sen. Hatch will remember that, as a statesman, he is held to a higher standard of conduct, and will choose his words more carefully."