Free Expression Report Card: Rick Perry
Position within the Trump administration: Rick Perry has been nominated by President-elect Trump to serve as Secretary of Energy.
Previous Experience: Governor of Texas (2000-2015); Lieutenant Governor of Texas (1999-2000); Texas House of Representatives (1985-1991)
- In 2010, when Perry was Governor, the state college Tarleton State University proposed to put on a play depicting Jesus as homosexual. The play was condemned by Perry’s Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, and later cancelled due to safety concerns. In a congratulatory letter from Dr. Steven Hotze, the president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, Governor Perry was credited for his “behind the scenes work to stop the play,” and claimed that “the necessary steps were taken” to stop the play after Perry was informed of the issue by his Chief of Staff. Perry’s office responded by saying he was not involved with the decision.
- In 2011, several reporters from publications including The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Mother Jones found themselves blocked from following Perry’s Twitter account (@GovernorPerry) alongside a few progressive bloggers. When asked for clarification, Perry’s spokeswoman stated that the account was for personal use, “so he manages it as he likes.”
- In 2012, Perry voiced his support for cheerleaders that were banned from using banners with Bible verses at public school football games. When the cheerleaders challenged the decision on free speech grounds, Perry stated that America was “built on the concept of free expression of ideas,” and that the cheerleaders “simply wanted to call a little attention to their faith and to their Lord.” The case is still ongoing as of 2016 after the Texas Supreme Court overruled a lower court’s decision to throw out the case.
- Perry has previously cited ‘freedom of speech’ in justifying one of his more controversial governance decisions. After the Texas Travis County district attorney and the head of Texas’ Public Integrity Unit Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested and convicted of drunk driving in 2013, Perry demanded for her immediate resignation, vetoing her unit’s funding upon her refusal. Perry was then indicted on the charge of abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant. Perry framed the decision to indict him as having a “chilling effect on free speech.” Perry, however, did not appear to clarify how he felt the abuse-of-power charges impinged upon his free expression. The charges were later dismissed.
Perry accuses the Intercept of libel
- In 2016, Rick Perry responded to an Intercept article about the serviceman, dubbed the “American Sniper,” Chris Kyle in an op-ed on FoxNews.com. Perry claimed that the report, which alleged that Kyle had embellished his military record, was “part of a disturbing trend in the left-leaning press to undermine the heroism of men and women who are willing to risk their lives in the defense of our nation’s freedom” and “a byproduct of nearly eight years of an arch-liberal in the Oval Office.” Perry then said “freedom of speech and deliberate libel are two entirely different things,” and called for a retraction and an apology from the Intercept.`