Report: Trump privately mocks Latter-day Saints as he publicly seeks their votes

(Photo courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) At Welfare Square in Salt Lake City on Dec. 4, 2017, President Donald Trump meets with then-Sen. Orrin Hatch, President Henry B. Eyring of the church's First Presidency and President Russell M. Nelson, then the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

While President Donald Trump is actively courting the support of Latter-day Saints for this year’s election, he has mocked its members and their practices in private — along with those of other religious groups, The Atlantic reported Tuesday.

That ranges from joking about religious undergarments worn by devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to blaming Mitt Romney’s membership in it for his loss in the 2012 presidential election, according to a story written by Atlantic staffer McKay Coppins, who is a Latter-day Saint himself.

In a story about Trump mocking many religious groups, Coppins wrote, “I’ve been curious about the president’s opinion of Mormonism ever since I interviewed him in 2014 at Mar-a-Lago. During our conversation, Trump began to strenuously argue that Mitt Romney’s exotic faith had cost him the 2012 election.”

He added, “When I interrupted to inform him that I’m also a Mormon, he quickly changed tack — extolling my church’s many virtues, and then switching subjects. … I’ve always wondered what Trump might have said if I hadn’t cut him off.”

Coppins added that Trump remained committed to his theory about Romney’s loss. During a September 2016 meeting with evangelical leaders, Coppins wrote, Trump repeatedly asserted that “Christians” didn’t turn out for Romney “because of the Mormon thing.”

Coppins wrote that he had an interesting reaction when he shared his Mar-a-Lago experience with Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime confidant and personal attorney who wrote a memoir about his work with Trump titled, “Disloyal.”

"Trump, he said, frequently made fun of Romney’s faith in private — and was especially vicious when he learned about the religious undergarments worn by many Latter-day Saints. ‘Oh my god,’ Cohen said. ‘How many times did he bring up Mitt Romney and the undergarments. …’”

The Atlantic noted that the Trump campaign has been courting the Latter-day Saint vote heavily in Western states this year, and that Donald Trump Jr. “has cultivated relationships with high-profile conservatives in the faith. Earlier this year, he invoked Mormon pioneers in a call with reporters to describe his father’s ‘innovative spirit.’”

It added that “according to two senior Utah Republicans with knowledge of the situation, Don Jr. has been so savvy in courting Latter-day Saints — expressing interest in the church’s history, reading from the Book of Mormon — that he’s left some influential Republicans in the state with the impression that he may want to convert. (A spokesman for Don Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.)”

The Atlantic said a White House spokesman offered a comment about its story saying that “people of faith know that President Trump is a champion for religious liberty and the sanctity of life, and he has taken strong actions to support them and protect their freedom to worship. The president is also well known for joking and his terrific sense of humor, which he shares with people of all faiths.”

Coppins tweeted Tuesday, “I know the ‘fake news!’ response is a reflex at this point, but the president’s apologists may want to pause and consider why the White House didn’t dispute any of the details in this story. They pointed, instead, to his ‘terrific sense of humor.’”

Latter-day Saints were just part of the focus of the story. For example, it reports that he told aides about televangelists, “They’re all hustlers.” And after returning from a 2011 meeting with pastors who laid hands on him to pray for him, he told aides, “Can you believe that bull----?”

Robert Taber, national director of Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris, released a statement commenting on The Atlantic’s story.

“It is clear that people of faith are only useful to this president as long as they remain a committed voting bloc for his agenda, and enough is enough,” he said. “Joe Biden has defended our faith, shown respect to our leaders, and spoken in defense of religious liberty. A Biden administration will unify and heal our country, helping us turn the page on division and hatred.”