The Texas megachurch pastor who made waves at this year's Voter Values Summit is not backing down.
One day after describing Mormonism as a cult and saying presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not a Christian, pastor Robert Jeffress defended his remarks on CNN.
"I am not a Jeremiah Wright on the fringe, making fanatical statements," he said.
The pastor characterized his controversial statements as an honest response to a reporter's question about his personal views.
"When somebody asks me a theological question about Mormonism, I have a responsibility to tell the truth," he said. "Mormonism has never been considered a part of evangelical historic Christianity."
He said he would vote for Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama in the general election, but that he would rather support a Christian for the GOP nomination. That doesn't make him a bigot, he explained.
"To religious people, religion matters," he said. "Those of us who are evangelicals have every right to prefer and support a competent Christian over a competent non-Christian."
Jeffress endorsed Texas governor Rick Perry at the event, introducing him as "a proven leader, a true conservative, and a committed follower of Christ."
While Perry has said he doesn't share Jeffress' views of Mormonism, a recent poll suggests that many pastors do. Three out of four pastors agree that Mormons are not Christians, according to this survey of 1,000 pastor, representing dozens of denominations.
But some pastors are coming to Romney's defense. Rev. Myke Crowder, a senior pastor in Utah, released a statement condemning Jeffress.
"As an evangelical, born-again, Bible-believing Christian, and a pastor with more than 25 years' experience living with and ministering among a majority Mormon population, I find the comments by Pastor Jeffress unhelpful, impolite and out of place," he said. "Insulting Mitt Romney adds nothing to the conversation about who should be president. We're picking the country's chief executive, not its senior pastor."
Watch the CNN interview below:
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more