As expected the American Family Association’s president, Bryan Fischer, delivered a Values Voter Summit speech rife with rhetoric some have called “unmitigated bigotry” and what presidential hopeful Mitt Romney indirectly called-out as “poisonous.”
“We should remember that decency and civility are values too,” Romney said at the end of his address Saturday morning, before the controversial Fischer took the stage. “One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line. Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate.”
It was the first time Romney has addressed his associations with Fischer at this political conference, despite repeated appeals from advocacy groups and the press for him to distance himself.
Fischer did not disappoint those expecting inflammatory statements — and from no less than the leader of one of this summit’s major sponsors. He said the future president of the United States would have to choose between homosexuality and liberty “because we can’t have both”; that homosexuality is a public health hazard; that Islam and not just “radical Islam” is inherently violent and pro-terrorism; and that the welfare system is “legalized blunder.”
Or as Slate’s David Weigel, and former Washington Independent reporter, tweeted: “Shorter Bryan Fischer: “I’m completely insane.” #VVS11”
Fischer did not directly comment on Romney’s speech, but in line with controversial statements Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress made about Romney’s Mormon faith, Fischer told the audience the next president has to be of “authentic genuine Christian faith.” After ticking off all the ways in which the nation’s future leader must follow Christianity, Fischer said: “This is not a religious test for political office.”
Romney took his speech in an unexpected direction. Since Friday morning, the former Massachusetts governor has been receiving slights and criticisms from presidential candidates and other panelists for his former positions on abortion and health care. To audience applause — and even a standing ovation — Romney attacked abortion rights, pledged to try to abolish Roe v. Wade, and promised to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
It is likely the candidate will continue to be criticized about “flip-flopping” on abortion, particularly from Fischer who in the past has slammed Romney’s previous defense of Roe v. Wade.
“Gov. Romney has in fact staked out radical positions on abortion, saying he believes Roe v. Wade must be sustained, and opposing any restrictions on access to abortion services,” Fischer wrote in 2006 in letter to the editor in the Idaho Lewiston Morning Tribune. “Not even Ruth Bader Ginsburg thinks as fondly of Roe as Romney does.”
Watch Romney censuring Fischer: