During a debate on atheism in New York City with Christopher Hitchens on Monday, the reliably inflammatory Al Sharpton said: "As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that.'"
"Sharpton Accused of Bigoted Remark"would be the equivalent of "Dog Bites Man" for a true "paper of record," but the Times rarely notices .
In atypical fashion, Luo devoted most of his space not to Romney's accusation or to calls for apologies from offended Mormons, but to Al Sharpton's (make that "civil rights activist" Sharpton, as Luo called him in a post on the Times' political blog) defense and rebuttal.
"Mr. Sharpton refused to back down in a telephone interview Wednesday, saying he had not implied that Mormons did not believe in God.
"Instead, he said, he had been responding specifically to a critique of religious belief in which Mr. Hitchens, referring to Mr. Romney and Mormonism, pointed out that one of the Republican presidential candidates was a member of a church that until the 1960s preached a 'sons of Ham' doctrine that denied the equality of people of African descent.
"In a statement released by his office, Mr. Sharpton said: 'In response to him I predicted that believers (not atheists) would vote against the candidate, in this case, Mr. Romney for political not religious reasons. In no way did I attack Mormons or the Mormon Church when I responded that other believers, not atheists, would vote against Mr. Romney for purely political reasons.'
"In the phone interview, Mr. Sharpton said that unlike many conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics, he believed that Mormons were Christians. But he also said Mr. Romney should be pressed about his church's history and beliefs. 'I believe if any religion preaches supremacy or unequalness, they are not true believers in God,' he said.
"And his statement said, 'Even though I didn't bring this up, maybe one should ask Mr. Romney whether these were the articles of faith of his church to preach segregation and whether he was a member of the church at that time.'"
What Democratic Sen. Majority Leader (and Mormon) Harry Reid thinks of Sharpton's comments or his church's racial history was left unexplored.