Smoot and Romney cases have parallels

Many parallels can be drawn from the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney and the seating of Sen. Reed Smoot in Congress at the beginning of the 20th century by looking at ways the media reported on the men and how they were perceived by the public at large.

In a paper published in May issue of The Journal of Media and Religion, Sherry Baker, with the BYU Department of Communications, and the MMO examine the interplay between the LDS Church, the media, and other factors in society that influence public perceptions about Mormons and the church.

Among other things, the paper compares the congressional hearings to seat Reed Smoot at beginning of the 20th century and the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Ironically, Smoot was seated in Congress 100 years to the month before Romney announced his campaign.

"When Reed Smoot, a successful 41-year-old businessman and leader in the LDS Church, was chosen to represent the state of Utah in the United States Senate, he entered 'a firestorm of angry protests' against his seating as a senator. The nationwide opposition to Smoot, which was 'essentially a Protestant endeavor,' resulted in the Senate referring Smoot's case to a committee to 'consider the suitability' of his membership in that body. 'The doctrines and practices (of the LDS Church) — not Smoot — emerged as the real focus of the hearing.' The hearings were of vast public interest."

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