Chris Matthews had a testy conversation on his Monday show with Robert Jeffress, the pastor who has gained notoriety for calling Mormonism a "cult."
Jeffress cheerfully refused to back down from that position, or from his view that Mitt Romney is not a Christian due to his Mormon faith. "It's a fact," he said, calling Mormonism a "theological" cult. "It's just true."
Matthews, who took pains to point out that he is "secular," asked Jeffress if he would want a "cultist" in the White House. Jeffress said that, if push came to shove, he would gladly vote for Romney over President Obama. "Do you believe that Mormon people believe that Jesus Christ was God?" Matthews asked. Jeffress started to say, "well," and Matthews cut him off.
"Well? Is that the answer?" he said. "Well? Do you believe that they are Christians?" Jeffress continued, saying that he didn't believe that "all Baptists are Christians," and that "nobody goes to hell in a pack."
"You're very good at this but this is called spin," Matthews said. "No it's not!" Jeffress responded.
Matthews said that the word "cult" would conjure up images of Charles Manson or Jonestown to most people. He said that Jeffress' stated preference for a Christian over what he called a non-Christian was "just a prejudice...just the same old kind of tribalism that we used to have in Europe, that we tried to leave behind."