Thet were words that still live in infamy. Mike Huckabee—Baptist minister, former governor of Arkansas, and dark horse candidate for the Republican nomination—was being pressed by a reporter for the New York Times Magazine about the religion of his rival, Willard Mitt Romney, before the 2008 Iowa caucuses. The reporter prodded Huckabee with an all-important question facing our Republic: Mormonism—cult or religion?

“I think it’s a religion,” the skinny Arkansan said. “I really don’t know much about it,” he admitted. Then he stepped in it, big time. The Times noted that he asked with an “innocent voice” the following question: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

Mormons were quick to pounce on those remarks, charging Huckabee with bigotry of the rankest sort. Scott Gordon, president of the Mormon apologetics group FAIR, called it an “attack question.” A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that while Mormons believe “all beings were created by God and are his spirit children,” Jesus Christ was the “only begotten in the flesh”; the “son of God”; and the “savior of mankind.” In other words, in Latter-day theology, “Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.”

Radio talk show host Bob Lonsberry, a convert to Mormonism from evangelicalism, wrote that the question was really a “hand grenade”—and it must have been, because messy metaphors went flying everywhere. Lonsberry argued Huckabee knew full well what he was asking. The idea was to feed “a firestorm of religious bigotry” and let the electoral inferno reduce his Mormon opponent to cinders. And, Lonsberry added, looking at the Iowa polls, it appeared to be working, damn him: “Judas got 33 pieces of silver, Huckabee got 22 points in the polls.”

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