- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A dying former Republican senator used his last days to apologize to Muslims for the rise of Donald Trump as his party’s presidential nominee, the man’s family members told the Daily Beast.

In a report posted Wednesday evening, the wife and son of former Sen. Bob Bennett said the Utah Republican was disgusted by Mr. Trump having become the party’s presidential front-runner based on his stances on Muslim and other immigration.

“In the last days of his life this was an issue that was pressing in his mind… disgust for Donald Trump’s xenophobia,” son Jim Bennett told the Daily Beast. “At the end of his life he was preoccupied with getting things done that he had felt was left undone.”

The article by Tim Mak begins with an anecdote, attributed to the younger Mr. Bennett and Joyce Bennett, the senator’s wife, in which he “lay partially paralyzed in his bed on the fourth floor of the George Washington University Hospital.” In that state, days before his death and with his speech slurred, he asked if there were any Muslims in the hospital.

“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his family members.

Bennett died May 4 of complications from a stroke and pancreatic cancer.

Even in the months while Mr. Trump was sweeping through the Republican primaries and before Bennett knew his death was imminent, the Daily Beast reported, the ex-senator made personal outreach to Muslims a priority.

For example, Mrs. Bennett cited leaving Washington on a Christmas trip back to Utah, in which the ex-senator approached a woman wearing a hijab at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

“He would go to people with the hijab [on] and tell them he was glad they were in America, and they were welcome here,” Mrs. Bennett said. “He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican Party.”

Jim Bennett said his father “was astonished and aghast that Donald Trump had the staying power that he had … [he] got angry and frustrated when it became clear that the party wasn’t going to steer clear of Trumpism.”

Bennett was elected to the Senate in 1992 and won three terms as a reliably conservative vote representing the heavily Republican state, where he was widely beloved for his gentlemanly demeanor, status in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and support for local entrepreneurs.

The Mormon status animated Bennett’s dying loathing of Mr. Trump, who had called for at least consideration of a total ban on Muslim immigration. The proposal even prompted the institutional LDS Church — an influential force among Republican social conservatives — to issue a formal statement defending religious freedom and the rights “of any denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.”

“That was something my father felt very keenly — recognizing the parallel between the Mormon experience and the Muslim experience. [He] wanted to see these people treated with kindness, and not ostracized,” Jim Bennett told the Daily Beast.

While in the Senate, Bennett rose to the status of chief deputy whip and was on the Republican Leadership Team. But his vote for the bank bailout and comprehensive immigration-reform led many in the then-nascent tea party movement to think they could get someone even more conservative.

At the 2010 Utah State Republican Convention, Mr. Bennett could only finish third behind Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater, both of whom had the backing of tea-party groups. Mr. Lee went on to win the Republican nomination and the Senate seat.

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