GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – It’s been a week since Texas Gov. Rick Perry addressed a hotel ballroom full of social conservative activists in New Hampshire.
An edited 8-minute reel of the more animated high points from his speech last Friday has gone viral on YouTube, with his giggles about maple syrup, mumbles about Herman Cain and calls for backyard gold-digging garnering more than 1 million views. Late-night comedians have speculated – incorrectly, Perry says – that the presidential candidate may have been drunk or drugged or both.
Now, a band of prominent New Hampshire Republicans want to put an end to the buzz. They summoned reporters here Thursday to deliver a simple message: enough with the “innuendo” and “rumors” -- and please, for Pete’s sake, stop circulating that “8-minute, cut-and-paste, arts-and-crafts video project.”
“We are not going to allow the primary process to be hijacked by rumor and innuendo,” said Jennifer Horn, a former two-time congressional candidate. “I was there. Rick Perry gave a great speech. He was articulate, coherent, passionate and at times even humorous.”
Perry was addressing Cornerstone Policy Research, a conservative group in New Hampshire, at a dinner honoring the group’s outgoing president, Kevin H. Smith.
Smith joined Horn, who runs the conservative group We The People, and state House Speaker William O’Brien at a press conference Thursday at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anslem College in Goffstown. The three are neutral in the presidential primary race, but rallied to Perry’s defense. They organized the press conference independently of the Perry campaign, although Horn said they kept the campaign appraised of their plans.
“Those of us who were witnesses to the truth, we have to stand up and talk about the truth,” said O’Brien, noting that he attended Perry’s speech and believed he is being “unfairly maligned.” Following the speech, O’Brien said, he thought: “He’s an articulate, amusing man who has a good grasp of the issues and was expressing them well.”
Horn admonished the press for circulating the video and for laughing at the Texan’s expense, which she said was a distraction from the more serious issues in the race.
“We are kind of sick and tired of the gotcha games of politicians and the political press,” Horn said, castigating reporters for “irresponsible, unsubstantiated storytelling.”
Of course, the video is hardly “storytelling.” It contains real footage of Perry’s speech, edited together to boil his 25-minute address down to eight minutes containing his unscripted and sometimes incoherent moments.
All week, the video has been dogging Perry. Campaigning in California this week, Perry was asked in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle whether he was on pain medication for his back surgery.
“No. I was just giving a speech,” Perry told the newspaper. “I had spine surgery on the first of July, but I ran this morning.”
The Chronicle asked Perry about comedian Jon Stewart’s suggestion on “The Daily Show” that Perry appeared under the influence of alcohol, Perry said: “It wasn’t that, either….
“It’s not that I wouldn’t love to sit down with Jon and have a glass of wine – if he’ll buy.”