When editorial cartoonist Steve Benson criticized current Mormon Mitt Romney in an E&P story earlier this week, reaction was fast and furious.
Many blog posters backed Benson, but many others blasted the grandson of former Mormon Church President Ezra Taft Benson. For instance, they asked why the Arizona Republic/Creators Syndicate cartoonist didn't also criticize Mormon politicians such as Democrat Harry Reid, and they said Benson's 1993 switch from Mormonism to ex-Mormonism made him as much of a "flip-flopper" as he accused Republican presidential candidate Romney of being.
E&P called Benson again today to get his response.
Benson -- who contended in the earlier story that a devout, "temple-endowed" Mormon U.S. president can't be truly independent of the Mormon Church -- said he didn't criticize Reid because the Senate Majority Leader "is not making an issue of his Mormon devotion. He's not standing up in a carefully orchestrated stage play and explaining his religion to the American people. Romney's speech was a tactical move to woo fundamentalist Christians in the hotly contested Iowa political caucus. He invited this scrutiny. And, unlike Romney, Reid's not running for the most powerful position in the free world."
The cartoonist continued: "Besides, it doesn't seem that Harry Reid's religion is as strong an operating force in his life or decisions as it is for Romney." Benson added with a laugh: "How could it be, given the conservative politics of most Mormons. Hell, Reid's a Democrat!"
Responding to the flip-flop charge, Benson said he left Mormonism because church leaders were misrepresenting his aged grandfather's health …