steve bannon alabama rally roy moore 12-5-2017
Bannon hits Romney for avoiding Vietnam
01:56 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Bannon touted Roy Moore's military service in Vietnam

Trump obtained multiple deferments during the war

Washington CNN  — 

Steve Bannon bashed Mitt Romney Tuesday night for, as he put it, hiding behind his religion to avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War.

Bannon, stumping for controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama in Fairhope, Alabama, touted Moore’s military service in Vietnam and criticized Romney for his lack of “honor and integrity.” Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, tweeted Monday, “no vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.”

“By the way, Mitt, while we’re on the subject of honor an integrity, you avoided service, brother,” Bannon said. “Mitt, here’s how it is, brother: The college deferments, we can debate that – but you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam.”

Romney, a Mormon, served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France for two and a half years in the late 1960s. In 1968, he suffered a broken arm when a car he was driving was involved in a head-on collision, killing one of the passengers.

Bannon also brought up Romney’s family.

“You had five sons, not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. … Where were the Romneys during those wars? You want to talk about honor and integrity, brother, bring it. Bring it down here to Alabama,” Bannon said.

Bannon did not serve in Vietnam, either, though he was of age to do so and attended college during the final years of the war. After the war ended, Bannon served in the Navy. He is most famous as chief strategist to President Donald Trump, who obtained multiple deferments for the Vietnam War for education and bone spurs. Neither of Trump’s grown sons served in the US military.

The former White House chief strategist said Romney – who called for Republicans to block Trump during the 2016 election before he was considered to be Trump’s secretary of state – is still “bitter about Donald Trump,” adding that Romney doesn’t “have the guts to get on the stage of a man who served in Vietnam.”

“Judge Moore has more honor and integrity in a pinkie finger than your family has in its whole DNA,” Bannon added.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday that Trump and Romney spoke over the phone Tuesday night, but she didn’t say whether they spoke about Bannon’s comments in Alabama.

Other Utah Republicans came to Romney’s defense Wednesday morning.

“Mitt Romney is a good man,” said Sen. Mike Lee. “Whether you agree or disagree with him on any matter of public policy, you can’t credibly call into question his patriotism or moral character – especially on the basis of his religious beliefs or his outstanding service as a missionary.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch called Bannon’s attacks “disappointing and unjustified.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert accused Bannon of being a “Mormon bigot.”

“He’s just totally out of touch with reality and he’s in some kind of la-la-land. … There’s more than one way to go out there and do good things for your fellow man,” Herbert told radio’s “The Doug Wright Show.”

Herbert added that Bannon’s comments may be about the potential Senate seat opening in Utah in 2018. Romney has reportedly expressed interest in running for the seat if Hatch retires, but Trump has said he supports Hatch remaining in the Senate.

Trump, who offered his full endorsement of Moore earlier this week, is scheduled to hold a rally just 25 miles from the Alabama border in Pensacola, Florida, later this week.

CNN’s Eric Bradner and Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.