Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Perry Defends His Debate Gaffe on Federal Agency Name

Gov. Rick Perry talking to the media after the CNBC Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9, 2011.
Photo by Ben Philpott, KUT News
Gov. Rick Perry talking to the media after the CNBC Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9, 2011.

Gov. Rick Perry is in damage control mode this morning, reminding supporters of gaffes by other candidates who became presidents after a painful stumble in last night's Republican primary debate in which he could not name one of three federal agencies he has vowed to abolish. 

Perry listed Education and Commerce but couldn't come up with the last one during an excruciatingly long exchange. “I would do away with the Education, Commerce and, let’s see,” Perry said, prompted one last time for an answer. “I can’t. The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

In the spin room after the debate, he told reporters, "I stepped in it, man."

This morning, he's telling supporters he's walking in the footsteps of the greats, reminding supporters of fumbles by candidates who went on to become presidents — Obama, Reagan and Ford — and calling the reaction to his gaffe "media froth."

Perry also appeared on the Today show this morning, telling them, "I'm human like everyone else." Asked whether he expects to be spoofed on shows like SNL, he said he does: "I hope they get the agencies right." Here's that clip, followed by Perry's email to supporters.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here's the text of his email:


Friend & Supporter, We’ve all had human moments. President Obama is still trying to find all 57 states. Ronald Reagan got lost somewhere on the Pacific Highway in an answer to a debate question. Gerald Ford ate a tamale without removing the husk. And tonight Rick Perry forgot the third agency he wants to eliminate. Just goes to show there are too damn many federal agencies. The governor said it best afterwards: “I’m glad I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it tonight.” While the media froths over this all too human moment, we thought we would take this opportunity to ask your help in doing something much more constructive: write us to let us know what federal agency you would most like to forget. Is it the EPA and its job-killing zealots? The NLRB and its czar-like dictates? The edu-crats at the Department of Education who aim to control your local curriculum? Send your answer to, and if you are on twitter join us in using a new twitter hashtag: #forgetmenot. And, if you could, throw in a $5 contribution for every agency you would like to forget. We hope you have a long list. And we promise we will write down every last idea. So we don’t forget. Still standing in our Boots, Team Perry


Ross Ramsey is managing editor of The Texas Tribune and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. Texas Weekly was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.
Related Content