Tony Perkins pushes back against reports: ‘I am not against Jeb’

Tony Perkins pushes back against reports: ‘I am not against Jeb’
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Family Research Council President Tony Perkins is pushing back against a Thursday New York Times story that seemed to indicate he and his influential group of social conservatives and evangelicals were gearing up to oppose a potential Jeb Bush presidential candidacy.
 
“It shouldn't surprise anyone — including the media — that conservative leaders are talking to each other about the 2016 presidential cycle and what it'll take to win,” Perkins said in an email to supporters, first obtained by The Hill.
 
“These ongoing conversations among conservatives were the subject of a front-page New York Times article today, which suggested that our movement is organizing against Governor Jeb Bush,” he continued. “While I can't speak for everyone, I am not against Jeb. In fact, I've met with him, and there are several things I like about him.”
 
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Perkins said he hasn’t decided who he will support yet, but that he hasn’t ruled Bush out.
 
“I will support the right candidate at the right time,” Perkins said. “Will that be Jeb Bush? I don't know. But I do know that we share a mutual respect, a love for our country, and a desire to unite America behind a courageous man or woman who can repair the damage done by this administration and restore our faith in government.”
 
The article in question says that “the leaders of evangelical and other socially conservative groups say they do not believe that Mr. Bush ... would fight for the issues they care most about: opposing same-sex marriage, holding the line on an immigration overhaul and rolling back abortion rights.”
 
The narrative caught on after an interview between Bush and Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade later in the day. Kilmeade appears to have erroneously attributed a paragraph in the story to Perkins directly.
 
“You’re going to be a target of the New York Times,” Kilmeade told Bush. “They’re quoting Tony Perkins, and he’s got a big Christian support staff, and he says the Christian right are looking for anybody to unite behind except for you.”
 
Perkins is quoted in the story, but he never makes that point himself.
 
Bush took the radio interview in stride.
 
“I don’t read The New York Times, to be honest with you, so I guess you’re going to force me to do so,” Bush said.
 
However, he seemed surprised to hear Perkins would have come out so strongly against him. Bush said he and the Family Research Council president met recently and that he has “enormous respect” for him.
 
“I hope I’ll earn his respect as well,” Bush said.
 
The former Florida governor said if he runs for president, he intends to make the case that his record as governor is one social conservatives can get behind. 
 
“I have a record as governor; I did more than talk about things,” Bush said. “I actually acted on my core beliefs as it relates to traditional marriage which I support, the sanctity of life, which I acted on on numerous occasions and that record will be, if I go beyond the consideration of this to an active candidate, I’ll be able to share that.
 
“There are very few people who can actually tell that story the way I can, because for eight years I served and consistently advocated my views on moral issues, so this will all sort out.”