Mitt, the Marriotts, and Porn

Marriott hotels will be phasing out in-room pay-per-view pornography over the next five years, giving up about $100 million in revenues to do so.  

(Lucky for them, Marriott guests will still be able to enjoy the Book of Mormon stashed in the nightstand drawer in Marriott hotel rooms, courtesy of the mega-Mormon Marriott family.)  

The hotel chain says that the decision is economic: in-room porn profits have tanked because the porn industry has moved on-line.  

But it’s being reported that the move is actually an effort to protect Romney against another round of flak from socially conservative and evangelical voters in Iowa, where the Marriott-porn issue flared up for a brief moment in July 2007. (Back then, Romney even came in for criticism from the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, in an editorial with the unfortunate title “The nasty taint of porn.”)  

I don’t buy it.

Anyone who understands the traction of evangelical anti-Mormon sentiment knows that most evangelical voters will never vote for Mitt Romney, especially if they have a choice in someone like Mike Huckabee. Marriott dropping porn won’t begin to make a dent in Romney’s (or even Huntsman’s) evangelical problem.  

And everybody should also know that—believe it or not—the presidential ambitions of Mitt Romney do not drive the agendas of Mormon-owned multinational corporations. Just as they do not drive the agenda of the LDS Church.  

The story that’s in the news—that Marriott dropped porn to give Mitt political cover from evangelicals—may have it entirely backwards. After all, the LDS Church is on a serious anti-porn campaign to deal with epidemic porn addiction in LDS communities. And frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if the Marriott change was spurred by a heart-to-heart conversation with someone at the Church Office Building. Among Mormons, porn is considered a very serious problem, primarily for the damage it does to the marriages and families of the porn-addicted.  

Anyone who wants to talk seriously about corporate profits and morality needs to do much better than paint Mitt Romney as a porn accomplice because he sat on the board of Marriott hotels.  

Who else has made money from the porn industry?  

If you have profited from the digital economy, raise your hand.  

After all, it’s pretty common knowledge that porn was the major driver of internet technological and capacity innovation before the advent of the smart phone.  

And if we want to start a serious conversation about where presidential candidates get their money and how ethical that money is, let’s do it. I have a laundry list of labor, environmental, feminist, and human rights issues with multinational corporations I’d love to start working through. But don’t give me a thin, opportunistic connect-the-Mormon-dots story and pretend it’s actually about morality. That’s just Mormon-baiting.  

askmormongirl@gmail.com'

Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.