WaPo: Hey, did you hear what that Mormon militia did 150 years ago?

The best part of this story is their pretext for running it, the supposedly real possibility that something that happened between Mormons and Christians 150 years ago might cause Romney to lose … Arkansas. The same state where Obama’s struggling to win the Democratic primary.

I’ve seen some impressive concern-trolling in my day, but concern-trolling and Mormon-baiting in the same piece is bravura stuff. Alternate headline: “Mitt Romney, terrorist spawn?”

On Sept. 11, 1857, a wagon train from this part of Arkansas met with a gruesome fate in Utah, where most of the travelers were slaughtered by a Mormon militia in an episode known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Hundreds of the victims’ descendants still populate these hills and commemorate the killings, which they have come to call “the first 9/11.”

“There have been Fancher family reunions for 150 years, and the massacre comes up at every one of them,” said Scott Fancher, 58, who traces his lineage back to 26 members of the wagon train, which was known as the Fancher-Baker party. “The more whiskey we drunk, the more resentful we got.”

There aren’t many places in America more likely to be suspicious of Mormonism — and potentially more problematic for Mitt Romney, who is seeking to become the country’s first Mormon president. Not only do many here retain a personal antipathy toward the religion and its followers, but they also tend to be Christian evangelicals, many of whom view Mormonism as a cult.

And yet, there is scant evidence that Romney’s religion is making much difference in how voters here are thinking about the presidential election and whether they are willing to back the former Massachusetts governor.

I take it back. Apparently the story’s about how there isn’t a possibility of Romney losing the state, in which case I guess the “news angle” here, such as it is, is that maybe there should be a possibility given how terrible the incident with the militia was. All we need now is a segment tomorrow on MSNBC about how “people are talking” about the 1857 Mormon militia raid and this latest distraction-of-the-day dumpster-dive news cycle will be complete.

Go read John Nolte on the Rev. Wright double standard and Guy Benson on why Axelrod is so comfortable in saying that Romney’s faith should be off-limits. Of course it’s off-limits for the campaign: The media will make an issue of Romney’s faith on the campaign’s behalf by treating it as “news.” Exit question: Am I right in thinking that WaPo resorts to this sort of decades-old (or centuries-old, in this case) character attack on Republicans more often than, say, the NYT does? That’s not to absolve the Times — the 2008 hit piece on McCain and his non-affair with a lobbyist is legendary — but my sense is that it happens more often with WaPo. They obsessed over Bob McDonnell’s master’s thesis, they hit Perry for the rock with the racial slur on property his family didn’t even own, they went after Romney a few weeks ago for forcibly cutting a kid’s hair 50 years ago, and now they’re exploring whether Romney will be somehow held culpable for the “Mormon 9/11” from the 19th century or whatever. I have no way of quantifying how many pieces WaPo has run like this versus how many the Times has run, but my hunch is that you’ll find more from the former than the latter. Maybe Newsbusters or the MRC or some other media watchdog has stats.

Update: Meanwhile, it’s starting to look like Obama’s Super PAC might not hold on to that Bill Maher check for much longer:

Maher, a major donor to a super PAC backing Obama, had tweeted “Why even listen to #MittRomney on foreign policy? His entire FP experience is 2 yrs trying to brow-beat Frenchmen into joining his cult.” The former Massachusetts governor spent two years in France as a missionary.

“Attacking a candidate’s religion is out of bounds, and our campaign will not engage in it, and we don’t think others should either,” campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith told Yahoo News by email.