Interviews

Jon Huntsman Sr. on Son's Presidential Bid

Exclusive: CEO on son's run for White House, 2012 race

 

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Just call them the storming Mormons, a hit show on Broadway -- a former Massachusetts governor leading the presidential pack, and now today a former Utah governor who could just give Mitt a fit.

Welcome, everybody. I’m Neil Cavuto.

And never mind one in five members tell Gallup they would not vote for one for president. The father of the latest Mormon to throw his hat into the ring says that is just because a lot of folks do not know the virtues of having a Mormon for president. He might have a bias. His son is running for president.

With me now, Jon Huntsman Sr. in a second.

First to the news that his son, former U.S. ambassador to China and the former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., is indeed in the Republican presidential race right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN JR. (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today I’m a candidate for the office of president of the United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: The governor, the ambassador also in New Hampshire right now for his first town hall meeting, and with dad close behind, but not before his dad stops here.

With me now, in an exclusive interview, billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr.

So, Jon, I guess on the phone now, you’re the -- I guess you’re the new Joe Kennedy

JON HUNTSMAN SR., FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, HUNTSMAN CORPORATION: Oh, no, Neil. No, I wouldn’t dare take that title away from Mr. Kennedy.

But I am up in Exeter, New Hampshire. And we were in New York earlier this morning. And what a great thrill on my birthday, today, to have our son Jon Jr...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTSMAN SR.: ... wonderful, wonderful...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, happy birthday. Happy birthday. Congratulations.

HUNTSMAN SR.: Thank you.

What a great announcement he made.

CAVUTO: Now, unlike Joe Kennedy, who was at the height of his fortune when he helped finance his son’s campaign, you’ve been giving all your money away to this great cancer foundation you’ve got going in Utah and elsewhere.

In fact, I think you had said when you last visited here you’d be happy not -- to die not a millionaire. So, now, just when his son was hoping maybe hit you up for some loans, you’re hardly the guy who can provide them.

HUNTSMAN SR.: Well, my son’s been through this drill before when he ran for governor of Utah both the first time and the second time. The second time, he won by a larger percentage than anyone in our history.

But on neither occasion did he ask his father for any help financially. And, this time, I said, son, I’ll be happy to help you. And he said, no, dad. He said this something that, if we have to finance ourselves, I shouldn’t be running and neither should anyone else.

So he is working hard to have other people around the country all pitch in and make this great, honorable, authentic individual president of the United States.

CAVUTO: Well, it is going to be interesting. And there is an argument -- I guess you don’t hear this with other religions brought into the race. Maybe we do with Mormons because of maybe just the sheer historical oddity of it.

But what do you think, Jon, of the notion that he’s going to divide the Mormon money network vote, if you will, that it was all focused on Mitt Romney, at least among the Republicans, and now your -- your son is sort of spoiling that party?

HUNTSMAN SR.: Well, you know, we’ve never talked about that. And I don’t think religion really has a role in politics.

And Jon Jr., after serving as ambassador in Singapore, and U.S. trade ambassador, and a two-term governor, an ambassador to China, has such wonderful foreign policy credentials and U.S. domestic credentials, that I don’t believe that people of various religions, Neil, will really focus that much on a religious basis.

Rather, they’ll focus on experience and guidance and fairness. And Jon Jr. is a gifted, wonderful leader and a fair man. And he will bring wonderful civility into the race. And so I don’t think religion or religious background will or should play any role in this campaign.

CAVUTO: But does it trouble you, Jon that one out of four, one out of five Americans, thereabouts, say they wouldn’t elect a Mormon for president?

HUNTSMAN SR.: Well, you know that may be a situation where people look at the broad context. But when they meet individuals – I’ve conducted business around the world now for almost 50 years, Neil, as you well know.

CAVUTO: Sure.

HUNTSMAN SR.: And I’ve never had anyone say anything other than, you know, it has been a pleasure and an honor to do business with you. And I’ve never heard anyone look at Jon Jr. with -- other than with respect and dignity.

And so I don’t -- I think that whether you are Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or whatever religion, I think people get to know the individual, and the individual puts behind them anything dealing with a religion of any sort. And I think that’s what will happen – what’ll happen again in this race.

CAVUTO: You know, Jon, you talk about your son’s decency. And he is a very decent fellow. Your whole family is that way, so I don’t mean this in a disparaging...

HUNTSMAN SR.: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: I don’t mean this follow-up question in a disparaging way. Do you think he’s almost too nice?

I mean, when Ronald Reagan announced his presidential campaign in 1980 against Jimmy Carter from that same venue, from the Statue of Liberty, with the backdrop, he went after Jimmy Carter with abandon, just -- just -- just vilified him. And he called him out by name, called out his failing economic policies one by one, and was relentless -- your son far more gentlemanly, far more ambassador-like, which might be all well and good, but in the rough-and-tumble world of politics, just might not cut it.

HUNTSMAN SR.: Well, no, I think, Neil, there’s a place for decency and civility.

As far as the issues are concerned, he understands them. He understands the difference, dramatic difference, between he and President Obama and he and some of the other candidates. But he can do it in a civil and decent and honorable way.

And I believe that’s his way, that’s his personality, and I thank the good lord for it, because he’s been the oldest of our nine children. And he’s been able to allow his younger brothers and sisters and our family to see a man of great honor and respect.

And so Jon Jr. won’t pound any tables or scream or raise his voice.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSMAN SR.: And I think it’ll be a pleasure to see someone in politics who has -- who has that sense of unity and -- and civility.

CAVUTO: Well, they have a heck of a dad, regardless.

Jon Huntsman Sr., if -- Jon, if all your kids and grandkids and great- grandkids, if they just all voted together...

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: ... he’d be at the top of the pile there.

HUNTSMAN SR.: Well, Neil, I’ll tell you something.

You are one of the finest men I have ever met. And, again, I know I’m on your show right now, so I can’t tell the world what a great man you are.

CAVUTO: Feel free.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTSMAN SR.: But I guess we could.

But I just want to tell you what a privilege it is to be on your show...

CAVUTO: Same here, Jon.

HUNTSMAN SR.: ... and what a privilege it is to be a father. And it’s my birthday, as I mentioned, and it’s a wonderful birthday gift.

And Jon Jr. is going to bring the country a lot of credibility and honor.

And you do the same thing, Neil. And that’s why I love you and respect you.

CAVUTO: Same here. It’s going to be a great race.

But, boy, he’s got a challenge in front of him, but a great dad.

Jon, good luck to you. Good luck to your son. We’ll be watching closely.

HUNTSMAN SR.: Thank you so much, Neil. And our best to you and your audience.

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