CNN to Perry: Convince Us Your Campaign Isn't Finished

The same network that treated then-candidate Obama with kid gloves about Reverend Wright demanded Rick Perry to explain how his campaign wasn't finished, in his interview on CNN's American Morning on Thursday.

Co-host Christine Romans scrutinized Perry over his forgetting one of the federal agencies he had promised to get rid of. However, she seemed to believe that his campaign was over because of the gaffe. "So my question to you is how is this not the end? Convince us that this is not the end of your – of your candidacy," she demanded of Perry during the 7 a.m. hour of CNN.

Romans twisted the knife again at the interview's end, asking Perry about his gaffe "honestly when you watch the 53 seconds, do you cringe or do you laugh? I mean, what are your emotions when you watch it?"

Such questions were never asked of Obama over his embarrassing "57 states" gaffe in 2008, and CNN's John Roberts even declared a "Reverend Wright-free zone" before his interview with then-candidate Obama when he was under fire for his ties to the controversial minister.  

A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 10 at 7:20 a.m. EST, is as follows:

[7:20]

CHRISTINE ROMANS: But you are the – you are the governor of an – of an oil state. I mean, that – that you feel so strongly that the Department of Energy – and you have on the campaign trail – should be one of the agencies that's gone that you couldn't remember it makes me wonder, you know, do you have a real plan for how you would wind it down and what you would do in its place if you couldn't even remember the agency?

Governor RICK PERRY (R-Tex.), Republican presidential candidate: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, we did that same thing to the Department of Commerce in Texas back in the 2000s. It was a standalone agency, it had its own governing board, and we consolidated it down for the savings, obviously. But it's also functioning substantially better now.

ROMANS: But this –

PERRY: And so Washington, D.C. and the Department of Energy is – is the same from that standpoint. The amount of money, just an administrative overhead taking those agencies and consolidating them down, or doing away with them in the case of education and commerce and in energy – and it makes a lot of sense.

And that's one of the reasons, when we talk about the seriousness of this campaign, you know, there are going to be people making mistakes. There are going to be folks who stumble over words or can't remember an agency as I did. But the seriousness that's gone on on this country, where there's 14 million people out of work –

ROMANS: Right.

PERRY: – where there are individuals who are sitting at home last night watching that debate going, who is it that has a tax plan, who's got a way to balance this budget, who can –

(Crosstalk)

ROMANS: But the substance of that has been lost.

PERRY: – put this country back on track.

ROMANS: But, Governor, the substance of that has been lost in the analysis of your debating skills. Because people look at that and say you're talking about peace in the Middle East. You're talking about dealing with delicate diplomacy on the economics front with China. You're talking about a dangerous moment in Europe.

And that's the performance they see and they wonder if you have the ability to handle the world stage the way you handled that debate stage last night. So my question to you is how is this not the end? Convince us that this is not the end of your – of your candidacy.

PERRY: Well, we're going to be back to those primary states and talking about our tax plan and talking about how we get America back working again. I may not be the best debater, the slickest politician on that stage. But what they do know about me is that for 10 years I've been the Chief Executive Officer of the state that created more jobs than any other state in the nation while America lost 2.5 millions.

What they're looking for is substance, not necessarily the slickest debater. So that's what we're going to be focused on and talking about our plan that not only allows our taxes to get simple, 20 percent, they take their deductions, put it a post card, send it in and end the IRS as we know it today. And get up every day and share with people that my goal is to make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in their lives as we can make it and getting rid of some of those agencies that we were making remarks about last night is a good start.

(...)

ROMANS: The criticism pretty fierce this morning. I mean, across the board, you're hearing folks say that this was one of the worst, if not the worst debate moment – those 54 seconds, you know, in modern primary history. You can dispute –  if you want to dispute that, go right ahead. That's fine. But my question is, are you worried at all going forward about what it means for raising money? For your supporters? If you're worried about wavering support among your supporters?

(...)

ROMANS: I know you've been making the rounds at the morning talk shows to try to sort of get back on the substance and away from the debate performance last night. Just so – honestly when you watch the 53 seconds, do you cringe or do you laugh? I mean, what are your emotions when you watch it?

PERRY: Well, obviously I stepped in it. But, again, I go – I have my moment of humor with it and then I press on. And understand that there are a lot more serious things facing this country than whether or not I could remember the Department of Energy at an inappropriate time.

ROMANS: All right. Governor Rick Perry, thank you so much for joining us this morning, sir. And we'll be watching this weekend again. Thank you.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014