Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran on Tuesday huffed that Rick Perry's "controversial" ad, combined with a presidential campaign that could be seen as "denigrat[ing]" "non-Christians" and "gay veterans," might spell doom for the Republican candidate. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
The program's other anchor, Cynthia McFadden, teased the segment by proclaiming, "Plus, God and country. Who would Jesus vote for? Rick Perry's on the campaign trail casting himself as the populist Christian candidate."
Moran interrogated Perry about a recent campaign spot lamenting the open service of gays in the military and religious hostility. A baffled Moran quizzed, "Who in this country is trying to make you or me or anyone ashamed to be Christian?" (Perhaps he's unaware of pop culture.)
Regarding Perry's ad, called "Strength," Moran offered this loaded question:
TERRY MORAN: Now, his back against the wall, Perry is promising to fight the battles many evangelicals want politicians to fight: For prayers in schools. Against gays in the military and gay marriage. You're running for President of the United States, to be president of all the people. Are you concerned that you're running a campaign that denigrates or excludes non-Christians? Gay veterans? People who won't be included?
Interestingly, back on December 12, Moran offered a much more positive take on the faith of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, lauding him as "inspired and "lifted up" by faith.
A transcript of the December 20 segment can be found below:
11:35pm EST tease
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Plus, God and country. Who would Jesus vote for? Rick Perry's on the campaign trail casting himself as the populist Christian candidate.
RICK PERRY: I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian.
MCFADDEN: Hoping voters will forget his debate debacles.
MCFADDEN: Tonight, Terry Moran gets on-board for our series, The Contenders.
MCFADDEN: It is one of the most powerful ways for voters to connect with a candidate, a shared faith, a sense of worshiping the same God and upholding the same values. Texas Governor Rick Perry has put his faith center stage in Iowa, hoping that the people in the pews will become his people of the polls. Here's my co-anchor Terry Moran from Iowa for our series The Contenders.
MORAN: There it is, rolling across the Iowa countryside. Governor Rick Perry's big bus. Here we are on the Rick Perry bus. Governor? Emblazoned with his latest slogan, faith, jobs and freedom. 14-Day bus tour.
MORAN: Yeah, that's intense. We hopped on the bus in Elkader, Iowa to see how Perry, once a front-runner in the presidential race, is making a last-ditch, last-stand effort to climb back to the top of the field. How it is going?
PERRY: Good. Everything's, you know, we have good crowds. People are excited. I don't think people made their mind up yet.
MORAN: That's what he hopes.
PERRY: We pray for our nation's leaders, Lord.
MORAN: And he hopes his Christian faith, combined with a slashing newfound populism is what will carry him back into contention.
PERRY: You can't remove my faith from me anymore than you can remove that I'm a product of a couple of tenant farmers from Paint Creek, Texas. It's just who I am.
MORAN: Perry's talked a lot about his faith since he jumped into the presidential race in August.
PERRY: I declare to you today as a candidate for president of the United States.
MORAN: And for a moment, he seemed the answer to Republican dreams, rocketing to the top of the polls with a double-digit lead. Then came the debates.
PERRY: It's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education and the- uh- what's the third one there. I can't, the third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.
MORAN: Again and again, Perry just seemed to struggle up there.
PERRY: Was it- was before he was before the social programs from the standpoint of, he was for standing up for Roe versus Wade before he was against Roe versus Wade.
MORAN: He sunk like a stone in the polls, falling to the back of the pack. But now, in the last days before the Iowa caucus-
PERRY: How are you?
MORAN: Perry is casting himself as an every man, bashing the front-runners on the stump-
PERRY: Wall Street bailout was the single gettest act of thievery in American history and Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were for it. That's what insiders do.
MORAN: And also on the airwaves.
PERRY AD: Mitt Romney, Wall Street. He made millions, buying companies and laying off workers. Newt Gingrich, K-Street, the lobbyist hangout in Washington.
MORAN: Is it fair to say that your argument is these guys have been corrupted by power?
PERRY: I'm not going to point my finger at Newt and I'm not going to point my finger at Newt and say you're a corrupt individual. What I'm going to say is, the industries that you've spent your life in is what has gotten America in trouble. I haven't.
MORAN: An outsider. On this 14 day bus tour through Iowa, 42 towns and cities on the schedule. Perry wants voters to know how different he is from Romney, Gingrich and President Obama.
PERRY: And it goes back to those values that I learned at Paint Creek. Nobody was going to bail out a dry land cotton farmer.
MORAN: He grew up poor, very poor in a tiny rural crossroads out on the plains of West Texas. No running water in the house until he was six. The one thing the town had plenty of? Faith.
PERRY: There wasn't anything there except a school, a farmers market, across the farmer's market road and there was a Methodist church and a Baptist church. Your choice.
MORAN: Sixty percent Of Iowa Republican caucus goers in 2008 identified themselves as born again or evangelical Christians. And Perry, right now, is running straight at them with a defiant and controversial ad.
PERRY: I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.
MORAN: Who in this country is trying to make you or me or anyone ashamed to be Christian?
PERRY: Oh, I think there are a number of folks out there who, as a matter of fact, groups and what have you, that want to push religion out of the public arena. I mean, if we were around 200-plus years ago when our Founding Fathers were putting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution together and the Bill of Rights.
MORAN: But the word God never appears in the United States Constitution.
PERRY: But you go back and read all of the writings from, whether it was George Washington or other of our Founding Fathers, those individuals were men of faith, the vast majority of them.
MORAN: As a young man, Perry served five years in the Air Force, came home to Paint Creek and had a crisis of faith.
PERRY: What I discovered was that I pushed God out of my life. But he had never left me. There was a hole in my heart and I wasn't happy. And I wouldn't be happy until I would find what would fit that hole in my heart. And that was God.
MORAN: Now, his back against the wall, Perry is promising to fight the battles many evangelicals want politicians to fight: For prayers in schools. Against gays in the military and gay marriage. You're running for President of the United States, to be president of all the people. Are you concerned that you're running a campaign that denigrates or excludes non-Christians? Gay veterans? People who won't be included?
PERRY: I don't at all. What people do in their private lives is their business. But the idea that we have to be forced to accept something that our faith says is not correct, I would suggest to you is an offensive thing to us. [Talking to a crowd.] Hope you all go work for us on January 3rd. Bless you.
MORAN: But will doubling down on the evangelical vote be enough? He's got a long way to go. Would you say you have to finish one, two or three ?
PERRY: That's good thing. Finish.
MORAN: Do have to finish top three, maybe top four to go on? That's what they say. What do you think?
PERRY: We're going to go on. So, you know, regardless of how we finish. Obviously, we- our intention is to finish first. That's why we got in this thing. I know what I'm doing. I'm pressing on.
MORAN: Pressing on and rolling on.