Perkins and Santorum: Star-Crossed Supporters

Last night at his home church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following a scorching speech from pastor Dennis Terry, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins insisted that he will not endorse any candidate for president. Perkins even joked that the FRC didn’t even endorse its own leader, Gary Bauer, when he ran for president 2000.

But while Perkins, who calls Santorum his “good friend,” may not technically have endorsed anyone, he’s done just about everything else to support Santorum’s campaign.

Back in January it was Perkins who announced that Religious Right leaders had decided to coalesce behind Santorum, even as many were still supporting Newt Gingrich, and again earlier this month it was Perkins who hinted that Gingrich should drop out because “If they were to converge together you would have a majority” to defeat Romney. Perkins also participated in the Council for National Policy meeting where conservative leaders pledged financial support for his presidential campaign. Santorum even filled in for Perkins once on the American Family Association’s radio network as a guest host prior to launching his campaign for president.

Last night Perkins asked Santorum questions that surely provided red-meat to the megachurch crowd on issues like abortion, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the debt, and his faith, although at one point he asked the former Senator to explain his support for Arlen Specter’s re-election.

The Associated Press reported that Perkins hosted a private meeting between Santorum and pastors from across the country before last night’s event:

Nearly a hundred pastors from all over Louisiana and from as far away as Texas and Colorado accepted Family Research Council President Tony Perkins' invitation to hear a personal pitch Sunday from the former Pennsylvania senator, who met with them in a private briefing before he addressed the more than 1,400 faithful who crowded into the sanctuary at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.

"What we need to do in this country is to rebuild that culture of life and rebuild that culture of marriage and families," Santorum said, standing in a small back room as the invited pastors gathered in an informal circle wearing handwritten name tags. "No one else talks about social issues."

...

Perkins, the head of the socially conservative Family Research Council, can't officially endorse a presidential candidate, but he made his personal feelings clear. "I'll tell you this," he said, "I wouldn't invite just anybody to my church."

Ironically, in 2008 Perkins was criticized for speaking too favorably of Romney and too critically of Mike Huckabee, who was then the preferred candidate of many in the Religious Right.

We have consistently documented Perkins’ extreme record:

  • said Islam is “evil”;
  • denied that there was a correlation between anti-gay bullying and depression and suicide, saying instead that gay and lesbian teens know they are “abnormal” and “have a higher propensity to depression or suicide because of that internal conflict";

With views like that, it is no wonder that Perkins has become one of Santorum’s (unofficial) cheerleaders.

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