Speaking in Salt Lake City — home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ headquarters — Donald Trump on Friday night questioned Mitt Romney’s membership in the faith, asking a crowd at a rally, “Are you sure he’s a Mormon?’’
Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, comes from a prominent Mormon family, and he remains popular in Utah, which has a sizable Mormon population.
After first praising Mormons generally — “And do I love the Mormons, OK?’’ Trump said. “Do I love the Mormons?’’ — Trump added that he has many friends in Salt Lake City. But he noted pointedly that Romney, who has been urging Republicans to deny him the presidential nomination, is not one of them.
“Did he choke? Did this guy choke? He’s a choke artist,’’ Trump said, referring to Romney’s loss to President Barack Obama in 2012. Trump added, “Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?’’
Although Trump endorsed Romney in 2012, the two men are far from friendly now. Earlier this month, Romney delivered a broadside against Trump, calling him “a fraud’’ and “a phony’’ and urging the Republican Party to unite around an alternative candidate.
And Friday, Romney, who owns a home in Holladay, Utah, wrote in a Facebook message that he planned to vote for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the state’s Republican caucus Tuesday, as part of an effort to deny Trump the party’s nomination at its convention in July.
Trump has questioned the religious affiliation of his rivals before, including Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, who is a Seventh-Day Adventist. But after Pope Francis recently suggested that Trump was not Christian because of his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, the real estate mogul took offense, saying it was “disgraceful’’ for a religious leader to question someone else’s faith.
In his remarks Friday evening, Trump also criticized Cruz.
“Is he really a natural-born citizen? I mean, give me a break,’’ Trump said, referring to Cruz, who was born in Canada and recently renounced his Canadian citizenship. “He was a citizen of Canada; can you believe it?
“He was a joint — he was U.S. and he was Canada,’’ Trump continued. “And you know, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. You’re supposed to be born, like, here.’’