SALT LAKE CITY — Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told "Good Morning America" Friday he is Mormon, describing the faith as "a very diverse and heterogeneous cross-section of people."
Huntsman was responding to a question about whether he was a practicing Mormon posed by the ABC morning program's host George Stephanopoulos on behalf of a Salt Lake City viewer.
"I believe in God. I'm a good Christian. I'm very proud of my Mormon heritage. I am Mormon," Huntsman, a likely GOP presidential candidate, said according to an ABC News transcript.
"Today, there are 13 million Mormons. It's a very diverse and heterogeneous cross-section of people. And you're going to find a lot of different attitudes and a lot of different opinions in that 13 million."
Huntsman's declaration comes a week after an interview in Time magazine, where he said it was "tough to define" whether he still belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A spokesman for his "campaign in waiting" quickly issued a statement after the Time interview was posted online last Thursday, saying Huntsman "remains a member of the church and proud to be part of the fabric of a large, vibrant faith."
The issue of whether Huntsman was attempting to distance himself from his faith to avoid the problems another LDS presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, ran into in 2008, generated much attention in Utah.
Friday, Politico posted an article suggesting Huntsman also chose Orlando, Fla., as the site of his likely presidential campaign headquarters for the same reason.
"Huntsman's recent decision to headquarter his campaign in Florida makes sense for logistical and political reasons but the location — and some recent remarks about his faith — have combined to produce a sharp reaction from the Mormon establishment, solidifying the impression for many of the former governor's constituents that he plans to keep his distance in more ways than one," Politico stated.
Polls have shown Romney, who lost the votes of evangelical conservatives who don't view Mormons as fellow Christians in 2008, would easily beat Huntsman in a Utah GOP presidential primary next year.
Romney embraced his Mormon faith in the last election, giving a major speech on religion in Texas to help explain his beliefs to voters. "My faith is the faith of my fathers," Romney said then. "I will be true to them and to my beliefs."