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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript

Interview

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COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with Montana governor, Brian Schweitzer, and Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Governor Schweitzer, thanks for being here.

So you raised a lot of eyebrows in this comment to The Daily Beast saying that Mitt Romney's family comes from a polygamous commune in Mexico. Is that fair game?

I mean, is that fair to talk about?

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: Well, people took it way off-base.

I didn't say anything about any religion. As you mentioned earlier, someone mentioned earlier, the Mormon religion hasn't accepted polygamy in 120 years. And as I have said before, Mitt Romney or his family that I know of doesn't except polygamy today.

The concern is that he took far right turns during the primary, including with immigration. His opponents were criticizing him because he was saying that if you're an 85-year-old grandmother and you didn't have all of your I's dotted, your T's crossed, and you're now a great grandmother in the United States, then you should self- deport. You should go back to where you came from. COOPER: But in this interview you mentioned like six or seven times that his family came from a -- his father was born into a polygamy commune in Mexico. Repeatedly mentioning that -- I mean, it was Mitt Romney's great grandfather who I guess practiced polygamy in the 1800s. Is that fair to raise?

(CROSSTALK)

SCHWEITZER: I don't -- I don't --

COOPER: Because Democrats were outraged when people were taking about President Obama's grandfather or great grandfather.

SCHWEITZER: People are taking this far away from where I was discussing. I was saying that Mitt Romney currently has a problem with Latino voters. And it is ironic that his father had come from Mexico. You would think that he could embrace his Latino roots.

COOPER: But you were saying that he was having a woman problem because -- and he doesn't want to talk about the fact -- the Mexico fact because of the polygamy connection.

SCHWEITZER: He both has a gender gap and he has a Latino gap. Probably wider than anybody who's run for president in recent years. So the point is how can he reach to the middle? I mean, now he's won the primary for all intents and purposes. Now he'd like to get those Latino voters back? How does he do it? Or he'd like to get the gender gap to close. How does he do it?

COOPER: Ralph Reed, do you -- you know, to the governor's original comment, do you think he has a woman problem or talking about this -- or a problem talking about his father's ancestry in Mexico because of polygamy, a history of polygamy?

RALPH REED, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: No, not at all. And in fact Governor Romney has already brought it up during the course of the campaign. You showed the clip. I would point out that in the current Pew Research survey that Romney has already closed the gender gap to 13 points, which is only five points from where it was when George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 over Al Gore.

And I think really the Obama campaign has repudiated these comments. I think it ought to be off-limits. I think it's equally irrelevant, by the way, that David Maraniss, the award-winning biographer who has a forthcoming biography on Obama, documents that his great grandfather had five wives. His grandfather had four wives.

You know, this is the silly season. I mean, we've got 13 million Americans out of work, Anderson. We've got another seven million who've given up looking for work because they can't find a job. And we're tweeting out photos of people's dogs and talking about what happened in Mexico in 1907.

And, you know, the governor has every right to stand by his remarks. But I would just say they were not welcomed by the Obama campaign and I personally as a person of faith as well as a civic participant just think we shouldn't be talking about this.

COOPER: Governor?

SCHWEITZER: Well, of course we didn't talk about religion. I have made it very clear that Mormons do not believe in polygamy. That Mitt Romney does not believe in polygamy. This is a question about what does he do with the Latino vote.

COOPER: Do you regret, though, giving this interview where you did mention polygamy six or seven times?

SCHWEITZER: Well, how many times I mentioned in an interview, I can't -- I can't tell you. I'm asked questions by a reporter just the way you're asking right now. You've probably asked me about three or four times in this interview. The point I'm making is that there's a wide disparity between voters who are Latino voting for Mitt Romney or voting for the other candidate.

It would be -- you know, think about it. If you're running for office and your family came from a certain country and there's a large number of those people who would be voting, you'd think that you would be able to embrace it. Maybe you'd even go down to where you came from --

COOPER: He has talked about it a number of -- a number of times.

SCHWEITZER: And maybe even run ads with some of your relatives.

REED: Governor, Governor, he has brought it up. And as Anderson pointed out, you weren't just talking about Latino voters. When you brought up the polygamy issue in the interview, unprompted, you said that that would -- was a problem for the gender gap. You said 86 percent of women oppose polygamy. By the way, I think that's an understatement. I think it's -- I think it's closer to 100 percent.

But whatever the issue is, why bring this up? And when you bring up something like this and then -- and then the Obama campaign is saying he's weird and they're saying he's secretive, this looks like, whatever your motive or intention was, it looks like a deliberate attempt to engage in a whispered campaign to turn voters off from Romney because of his faith.

SCHWEITZER: Well, good luck, cowboy. You were -- you are trying to assess motives. I'm simply laying out the question of how Mitt Romney is going to get that gender gap and also he's got a problem with Latino voters. Those are the two areas that he's having the great difficulty --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So you stand by the comments? You don't regret --

SCHWEITZER: Yes. I wasn't talking about anybody's religion. And in fact, in my comments I simply said that Mitt Romney is not a polygamist, doesn't support polygamy and neither does the Mormon Church. So there are people like Ralph who'd like to take it some place where I didn't take it. But if they'd like to go there, that's their business. I'm not going there.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. Governor Schweitzer, appreciate it.

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