In 2012, when Mitt Romney became the first Mormon to serve as the presidential nominee of a major American party, it provoked a wave of anti-Mormon prejudice on the political left. Outlets like Salon ran articles warning of a fantastical Mormon conspiracy to take over the United States; a distinguished Yale professor writing on The New York Times op-ed page fretted about the prospect of theocracy; and prominent liberal pundits on cable news invoked misrepresentations of Mormon history to impugn Romney’s fitness for office.
Flashforward to 2016 and these sort of slurs are making a comeback—but this time on the right. The third party conservative ticket of former CIA officer Evan McMullin and his running mate Mindy Finn is poised to win Utah, whose Mormons are one of the most anti-Trump Republican blocs in America, and whose GOP politicians boycotted Trump’s only event in the state. But with the rise of McMullin—himself a Mormon like fellow Trump critic Romney—has come a rise in anti-Mormon bigotry in Trumpian circles. Thus, earlier this week, FOX News host and Trump supporter Lou Dobbs tweeted this about McMullin:
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) October 23, 2016
Dobbs’s tweet is a reminder that, like anti-Semitism, anti-Mormon bigotry is not the province of any particular party, but rather the bipartisan tool of unscrupulous ideologues who seek to discredit their targets without offering substantive political arguments.
Much like the LDS Church responded to the Book of Mormon musical by placing tongue-in-cheek ads in its playbill, Mormons and their allies online responded to Dobbs’s musings about a Mormon mafia with wry humor, with a hashtag that quickly went viral:
— Philip Moon (@Philip_R_Moon) October 27, 2016
Nice charity you have there. Shame if we donated to it. #MormonMafia
— Dan (@danieltobin) October 27, 2016
“Gosh darn it, you messed with the wrong fellows this time, you nincompoop!” #MormonMafia
— Sunny (Mat) (@sunnyright) October 27, 2016
— Donald Dump (@realdonalddump) October 27, 2016
Big #MormonMafia fake ID ring busted. They were making library cards so underage kids could borrow Great Brain books.
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) October 27, 2016
Just got out of the Jewish global conspiracy meeting. Great collaboration event with the Mormon Mafia. #synergy
— Shoshana Weissmann (@senatorshoshana) October 27, 2016
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) October 27, 2016
For McMullin’s part, when asked on CNN about the meaning of Dobbs’s remark, he responded:
I’d really love if Lou Dobbs would have me on, and I would love to ask him that very question. I’d love to hear him describe exactly what is the Mormon mafia. I think it’d be pretty interesting to hear. I don’t know what it means. But I will tell you that it isn’t surprising that a supporter of Donald Trump, not that they’re all this way, I want to make that clear, but the hallmark of Donald Trump’s campaign has been to attack people based on their race and religion and all of this. And so it’s not a surprise to me at all. I mean we’re kind of having fun with it. But the truth is that this country’s for everyone. This country is for people of all races and religions, and certainly both genders are equal and should be treated as such. That’s something that if you don’t understand that, you have no business leading this country, and I actually have the same criticism of those who are standing with Donald Trump from the Republican Party now. It’s truly unfortunate if they’re not going to stand up for Americans who are being attacked on these grounds, their religion, their gender, their race, what good are they for leadership of our country?