This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Washington • Donald Trump's new campaign chief once criticized Mitt Romney and his five sons for skipping military service to go on Mormon missions.
Steve Bannon, who was then the chairman of the right-wing Breitbart News, slammed Romney in October 2012 for failing to mention the war in Afghanistan during his nomination-acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
"Mitt Romney goes to the Republican convention, gives his acceptance speech, people give him a standing ovation, and he doesn't have the common decency to say one thing about our troops fighting in Afghanistan?" Bannon told Conservative Republican Forum Radio. "This is a guy who avoided military duty in Vietnam; who has five sons who look like movie stars who have not served their country one day. Oh, but by the way, all of them did their two years of Mormon missionary service every one of them."
BuzzFeed News first reported the comments.
Trump has acknowledged "having a tremendous problem in Utah" in front of an audience of evangelical pastors in Florida earlier this month.
"Utah's a different place," Trump said then.
A Salt Lake Tribune poll in June showed Trump tied with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, though more recent polls have put him ahead by double digits in a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since 1964.
Romney, who lives in Utah, has been a vocal critic of Trump, calling him a "phony, a fraud" and urging Republicans to reject him.
Romney received draft deferments during the Vietnam War to attend college and to serve his LDS mission to France. Trump also received deferments to avoid the draft. Romney's five sons served Mormon missions but well after the U.S. draft had ended.
Democrats in Utah pounced on the newly uncovered comments by Bannon.
"Stephen Bannon's comments are abhorrent, and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms," said Utah Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Littlefield. "That he'd be willing to slam any Mormon's missionary service at any point in time just to score cheap political points is flat-out wrong and sets a dangerous precedent."
Littlefield added that while the Democratic Party in the state may disagree with Romney on issues, "We know that his religion is simply off-limits. Our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and that's something we should always respect."