(Photo: REUTERS / Brian Snyder)
Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stands by his wife Anita's claims that media scrutiny of his campaign has been rough partly because of his traditional Christian faith.
Perry told ABC News on Friday that his wife is "passionate" and that "family members generally take these campaigns harder than anyone else."
Anita Perry showed just how hard the race has been during a visit to North Greenville University, a Baptist Christian school in South Carolina, on Thursday. She told listeners, "It is a comfort to know that I'm in this place where I can feel the presence of God and what a joy it is because It's been a rough month, I’d like to tell you. We've been brutalized and eaten up and chewed up in the press." During her 15-minute speech, Perry bowed her head twice to avoid breaking down in tears.
She explained how she initially pushed her husband to consider a presidential run and how, after doors began to open, Rick Perry felt he was being called to run for the presidency.
Since Rick Perry joined the race, he has seen his poll numbers go from front-runner to fourth behind rivals businessman Herman Cain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to this week’s Rasmussen poll.
He has been labeled by the media as a dominionist seeking to take over the government for God. The Texas governor has also been bashed by some party members for approving the Texas DREAM Act, which allows illegal immigrants who entered the country as a child to pay in-state tuition costs to attend local colleges.
"We are being brutalized by our opponents and our own party. So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith," Anita Perry said. She called her husband, an evangelical, "the only true conservative" in the race.
Rick Perry said he is standing by his wife, noting, "I think she's right on both cases."
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, responded, telling The Christian Post, "He's hardly the most conservative in the race. He may be, with the exception of Ron Paul, the most conservative of the conservatives in the race."
“And he’s certainly not the only person of faith,” Land added, describing Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann as a vibrant evangelical Christian, Herman Cain as a very serious Baptist, and Romney as a serious Mormon.
Land, also an executive editor for The Christian Post, said that while any public person of faith is going to be attacked in the media, "I would say most his (Rick Perry's) wounds have been of his own making." The Southern Baptist, however, noted that one thing that he feels Perry did get right is his much criticized in-state tuition policy for illegal aliens.
Perry has appeared lethargic in his debates where he often tripped over his own words and failed to adequately defend his positions. His wife has tried to pick up the slack, appearing at town halls, making bold statements and defending her husband's debate performances.
Anita Perry acknowledged, “There are some true conservatives (in the GOP race) and they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too.”
But she added, "But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”
Land said he sympathizes for Anita Perry. "It's been painful to watch Gov. Perry's appearances in the race," he said. Land noted that attacks against a loved one is often more painful than attacks against oneself.
Commenters on the Fox Nation website, however, have been less than sympathetic to Anita Perry's message.
Thirty-seven people rated her words "inspiring," while others wrote, "Anita, if you think a little ... party criticism amounts to brutalization, I'd love to see how you react to the general election."
Though it has been a rough race so far, Anita Perry made clear, “We still feel called to do this.”
“We truly feel like our country is on the abyss of failure and destruction,” she said. “We’re doing this because we want to save our children, because we need to put the soul of our country back. We are fighting for the soul of our country.”