Commentary Magazine


Rubio and Media Double Standards

BuzzFeed wins the prize for one of the most unexpected political revelations of the campaign season:

[Sen. Marco] Rubio was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his family at around the age of eight, and remained active in the faith for a number of years during his early youth, family members told BuzzFeed.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant confirmed the story to BuzzFeed, and said Rubio returned to the Catholic church a few years later with his family, receiving his first communion on Christmas day in 1984 at the age of 13.

The revelation adds a new dimension to Rubio’s already-nuanced religious history—and could complicate his political future at a time when many Republicans see him as the odds-on favorite for the 2012 vice presidential nod.

BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins speculates that Rubio’s religious history might knock him off Romney’s VP short list. As much as the bias against Mormons persists in some Republican circles, it’s hard to imagine spending a few years as a Mormon as a child would hurt his chances of getting the vice presidential nomination.

Though, oddly enough, Rubio’s office seems to be worried it might. It looks like they were concerned enough to preemptively pass the story to a friendly Miami Herald blogger, shortly after BuzzFeed contacted them for comment:

A sign that Rubio’s aides see the story as potentially damaging: BuzzFeed’s inquiries appear to have sent them into frantic damage-control mode, and after email inquiries from BuzzFeed — but minutes before Conant responded with a phone call this morning — a brief item appeared on the blog of the Miami Herald mentioning the senator’s religous past. Conant said Rubio planned to discuss his time as a Mormon in his forthcoming book.

Meanwhile, at HotAir, Tina Korbe sees a glaring double-standard in the Rubio story:

Meanwhile, the story calls to mind what the Media Research Center discovered some time ago: The media covers the religious views of Republican politicians in far greater detail than it ever covers the religious views of Democratic politicians. Then, after playing up those religious beliefs, the MSM accuses the Republican candidates themselves of making everything about religion.

Case in point: Obama’s childhood and adolescence received little coverage during the 2008 election, but apparently the brief childhood religion of Rubio is fair game today. Not only is it an example of how Republicans often receive more scrutiny, it also shows that prejudice against Mormons is still prevalent enough to actually make this an issue.