Political Animal


November 01, 2011 1:10 PM Rick Perry keeps falling for urban legends

By Steve Benen

In August, Rick Perry complained about a new regulation that would require farmers to get commercial drivers licenses if they drive their tractors across the road. It’s a common urban legend in GOP circles, but it’s not true.

In September, Perry complained that President Obama gave Brazil $2 billion to help with their offshore drilling projects. A right-wing chain email has made the rounds making this claim, but it’s demonstrably false, too.

And now it’s happened again.

Satire may not be Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s thing.

Last Friday, at the swanky Barley House tavern in Concord, N.H., Mr. Perry took a little jab at the Occupy Wall Street crowd, referencing an amusing quote his son had sent him from a protester occupying Toronto.

“I don’t know if it can be proved up or not,” Mr. Perry conceded, “the young man’s name was Jeremy and he was 38 years old. But he said, ‘We got here at 9 o’clock, and those people, this was in Toronto, I think Bay Street is their comparable [Wall Street], he said those bankers that we came to insult, they’d already been at work for two hours when we got here at 9 o’clock, and when we get ready to leave, you know, they’re still in there working. I guess greed just makes you work hard.”

So what’s the problem? There is no “Jeremy” — the quote Perry paraphrased appeared in a satirical piece that ran in Toronto’s Globe and Mail. The piece became a chain email, Perry’s son sent it to him, and the governor failed once again to separate fact from fiction.

I imagine many of us have conservative friends or relatives who send around right-wing chain emails. Most of us, hopefully, realize that the vast majority of these political myths and urban legends are nonsense.

The fact that Perry struggles so frequently in this area is not a good sign.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • chi res on November 01, 2011 1:12 PM:

    But I seen it on the internets, so it must be true!

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 01, 2011 1:16 PM:

    Perry might do OK if he finds a cave and hides until the first primary otherwise every time he opens his pie hole the vacuous space between his ears becomes more apparent.

    Quite a field of candidates ya got there repubs , quite a field.

  • Zorro on November 01, 2011 1:16 PM:

    Buh... buh... he's got such great hair!


  • Ron Byers on November 01, 2011 1:19 PM:

    The problem is that lots of people simply accept what the chain emails. They never verify anything they read. They repeat it if it reenforces their world view.

    The problem isn't necessarily Perry's. He, like all Presidential candidates, is supported by a staff of people who help craft his image. He hears things like this story from them. Apparently Perry's staff is not really in to fact checking chain emails.

    Of course, the same can be said about any number of pundits and columnists for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

    When you don't value truth and when you never suffer a consequence you don't spend much time checking facts.

  • T-Rex on November 01, 2011 1:20 PM:

    Reagan used to do this all the time, even in the days before the Internet. And when the media called him on his glaring misstatements of fact, the public yawned and asked why the librul media were being so mean to such a nice guy. It works. And in the GOP, it's even rewarded.

  • c u n d gulag on November 01, 2011 1:23 PM:

    Are we sure Rick Perry's not some satirical "Rural Legend" written by the folks at "The Onion?"

  • merl on November 01, 2011 1:26 PM:

    I used to get rightwing emails until I would make fun of them and tell them just how stupid they are and then hit reply all

  • martin on November 01, 2011 1:30 PM:

    How come I never get left wing chain mail? Is the right wing really that much better at this than the left? Believe me, there are plenty of people out there who believe these, and no amount of debunking or proof is going to change their minds. If it isn't true it should be, seems to be their motto. Which is, pretty much, how Rush Limbaugh works. Make up a story about someone fictitious, say quickly it is how you imagine it is, and then watch as the dittoheads take it as gospel and run with it.

  • HydroCabron on November 01, 2011 1:30 PM:

    General rule: Every public protest, with the exception of anti-tax, pro-NRA, and foetal personhood rallies, is entirely populated by people who do not have jobs because they are too lazy to work. Everyone who disagrees with extreme right-wing policies is unemployed and needs to get a job.

    However, anyone who feels that right-wing voters are uninformed on some issues is an Ivy-League elite richy-rich who needs to be brought down a peg.

    See how this works?

  • David in NY on November 01, 2011 1:31 PM:

    Ronald Reagan got away with that for a couple of decades.

  • emjayay on November 01, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Michele Bachman and Rick Perry: both repeatedly publicly make serious claims based on unsubstantiated compeletely erroneous stories from the internet or somewhere. Both rabid Chrisianists, who believe all sorts of completely incredible imaginary stuff.


  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on November 01, 2011 1:39 PM:

    The first "quote" in the Schatzker piece is a gem, though, if you recall this is about Toronto:

    “Looking back, I can't believe what we achieved in a few incredible days: government-funded health care, a well-regulated banking system, and a cap on corporate political donations. Our work is done.”

  • Grumpy on November 01, 2011 1:40 PM:

    Virtue = working more hours.

    More hours, please!

  • filkertom on November 01, 2011 1:51 PM:

    I have told my parents that, before they forward me any RW B.S., or go off on the phone about it, they should check snopes.com to verify it. The number of dubious stories they forward to me has dropped to almost nothing.

  • TCinLA on November 01, 2011 1:53 PM:

    This is an ooooooolllllllddddd problem with right wing Republicans. Ronnie the Ray-Gun was always making up his own "anecdotes" or using some bullshit he'd heard from some nitwit Republican passing it on. Back then it was the "welfare queen in the Cadillac," or that "trees create smog," and other crap that was obvious bullshit once said.

    You have to remember something about bullshit and bullshitters. As Harry Frankfurt put it in his famous essay "On Bullshit":

    What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive aracteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

    When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

    Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person's obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic are more excessive than his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled -- whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others -- to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant... The lack of any significant connection between a person's opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.

    Frankfurt also describes humbug, which is the usual kind of Republican rhewtoric:

    "Consider a Fourth of July orator, who goes on bombastically about "our great and blessed country, whose Founding-Fathers under divine guidance created a new beginning for mankind." This is surely humbug. As Black's account suggests, the orator is not lying. He would be lying only if it were his intention to bring about in his audience beliefs which he himself regards as false, concerning such matters as whether our country is great,whether it is blessed, whether the Founders had divine guidance, and whether what they did was in fact to create a new beginning for mankind. But the orator does not really care what his audience thinks about the Founding Fathers, or about the role of the deity in our country's history, or the like. At least, it is not an interest in what anyone thinks about these matters that motivates his speech. It is clear that what makes Fourth of July oration humbug is not fundamentally that the speaker regards his statements as false. Rather, just as Black's account suggests, the orator intends these statements to convey a certain impression of himself. He is not trying to deceive anyone concerning American history. What he cares about is what people think of him. He wants them to think of him as a patriot, as someone who has deep thoughts and feelings about the origins and the mission of our country, who appreciates the importance of religion, who is sensitive to the greatness of our history, whose pride in that history is combined with humility before God, and so on.

    The full essay can be found here: http://www.gwinnettdailyonline.com/articleB5BD6D4417AF444DBD8F9770AA729B26.asp

  • Diane Rodriguez on November 01, 2011 2:13 PM:

    This BS is exactly why I cringe and throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear that Perry and Cain are so "likeable". They are both perfectly disgusting. The context matters and representing that depth of stupidity in a Presidential candidate is deplorable. In your neighbor, it may be tolerable to some folks if you never have to see or hear them. I am way over fatigued with the media using any means necessary to represent the Republican group of pathetic excuses for candidates as legitimate.

  • lib4 on November 01, 2011 2:16 PM:

    Also saw exact quote on Varney and Co on Fox Business on last Friday morning....the crew had a good har-de-har-har over that one....

  • jjm on November 01, 2011 2:17 PM:

    Perry's I.Q. must be seriously down there in the sub-basement.

    I think he is the 1%'s joke on us, mocking us and daring us to elect a complete ignoramus.

  • Epicurus on November 01, 2011 2:19 PM:

    Ima go out on a limb, and suggest that Governor Goodhair is not too, how shall I put it, "smart." Anyone out there want to take the counter-argument? Anyone?? Bueller???

  • cmdicely on November 01, 2011 2:32 PM:

    The problem isn't necessarily Perry's

    Sorry, but it is. I mean, he's running for President. The ability to distinguish fact from a myth generated by politically motivated propaganda distributed through chain emails before reacting is pretty important for someone who wants to hold an office that, among other things, is commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful military.

  • Redshift on November 01, 2011 3:00 PM:

    You'd think that even the dimmest (and Perry certainly qualifies) would recognize some kind of conflict between the constant reports about Occupy protesters staying nonstop for weeks and a quote about "when we get ready to leave, you know, they’re still in there working."

  • johnny canuck on November 01, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Equal Opportunity Cynic on November 01, 2011 1:39 PM:

    The first "quote" in the Schatzker piece is a gem, though, if you recall this is about Toronto:

    “Looking back, I can't believe what we achieved in a few incredible days: government-funded health care, a well-regulated banking system, and a cap on corporate political donations. Our work is done.”

    Canada's govt funded health care system dates from the l960's; the well-regulated banking system from the 1930's; and reformed election funding from 2003.
    You may be interested to know that the cap on corporate donations is $1000 per constituency per year. Individuals capped at $5000.
    Some funding is provided to federal political parties based on the number of votes they achieved in the previous election.

  • jrosen on November 01, 2011 3:19 PM:

    Even if the quote were real, I'd disagree that the bank guys were "in there working". Scheming, plotting, finagling, scamming, gouging, screwing the public, maybe. But working? Hardly.

    Picking up the garbage, teaching 3rd graders, walking a beat, reporting a story, drywalling an apartment etc. Those things are working.

    I have the same beef about referring to a CEO's obscene, multi-millionaire's (self-awarded) bonus as "earned". Garnered, pocketed, walked away with, maybe. But earned? Nah!!

  • Rick Massimo on November 01, 2011 3:49 PM:

    “I don’t know if it can be proved up or not,” Mr. Perry conceded ...

    ... "but I'm gonna say it anyway."

  • ComradeAnon on November 01, 2011 4:24 PM:

    “I don’t know if it can be proved up or not.." You know it's gonna be good.

  • Steve on November 01, 2011 5:12 PM:

    T-Rex has it exactly right, I don't know why even liberal blog have headlines that say "Rick Perry keeps falling for urban legends"

    They are not failing for things they don't care if it's true. Truthy sounding is what they are looking for. They are never punished for it, its always "oops, he didn't check the story out", he doesn't care and the republican base doesn't either.

    My right wing step-mother sends me right wing ALL CAPS chain letters that complain about the libruls or Obama, I've never received one that is true, and I've replied to every one, now she uses BCC so that I can't send refutations to everyone one her list. Still she keeps sending these things out, she doesn't care if they are true. They sound true and that's good enough.

  • left reach on November 01, 2011 10:14 PM:

    Perry struggles, all right.
    In New Hampshire he came across with senseless superficiality offering mindless gobbledegook-- just so very shallow, vapid, and--frankly--silly.
    He almost seemed like a comedian out to mock George W Bush.
    I didn't feel sorry for Perry---I felt sorry for us. What a ridiculous stargazer. A laughing fool.
    It made me sense he might need specific brain stimulating medication, some social skills training, emphasizing awareness of how he comes across, how he is in need of skill building for learning to self-limit.
    He did present as inebriated, hypnaogic, inappropriate. Does he not realize he is being filmed?
    Slobber, drivel, drool.
    I felt his humiliation, although I am sure he did not feel any.

  • Julio on November 02, 2011 8:41 AM:

    Study shows: Conservatives don't understand sarcasm


  • LRM on November 02, 2011 10:29 AM:

    My guess is that Perry knew better, but he knows that the people listening do not......and they love hearing it.

  • Randy on November 02, 2011 12:07 PM:

    The inability to separate fact from fiction is not a negative for Republicans. See Reagan, Ronald.

  • Bruce Webb on November 02, 2011 8:48 PM:

    This is even funnier because 'banker hours' are apocryphal. Back in the day it meant the Banker (as opposed to the Teller) coming in at 10 when the bank opened and leaving at 4 and taking Weds afternoon off for golf. Now that commercial banking merged with investment banking and trades happen around the clock it is not as funny, but oddly these guys, particularly at the top manage to still keep their golf handicaps down even as they keep their symphony subscription and knowledge of steakhouses up.

    Even in mid-level clerical and retail jobs real supervisors (as opposed to your Fast Food 'assistant manager') have amazing freedom to set their own breaks, lunch hours, and working conditions, and that only magnifies going up the ladder. Unless the CEO is a real hard ass.

    Then again the price of being in the top 1%. But you don't have to be that high in middle management to know you will spend large parts of your day sitting on your ass in meetings with free access to pastries and coffee. Even as you time employees on their bathroom breaks and precise time of clocking in and out. And then bitch about having to stay for a dinner meeting.