On June 11, Texas Gov. Rick Perry addressed the Commonwealth Club of California at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco. During the forum portion of the event, moderator Greg Dalton asked an audience question which strayed from the advertised topic of the discussion, “Energy Independence in America.”
“Do you believe homosexuals can be cured by prayer or counseling?” read Dalton. A smattering of titters in the crowd and an awkward silence on stage followed.
“I don’t know,” said Perry. “I don’t. I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m not a doctor. I’m, um, so…”
“Is it a disorder?” asked Dalton, as a follow-up.
In response, Perry first mentioned his debut 2011 book, “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For” before wading into choppier waters.
“I talked about that people make choices in life and whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not you have the ability to decide not to do that,” said Perry. “And I made the point [of] talking about alcoholism. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that and I look at the homosexual issue as the same way.”
David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer, was in attendance and noted the palpable unease this statement produced.
“The large crowd gathered … included many Perry supporters,” wrote Baker on Thursday. “But the comment still drew a murmur of disbelief.”
Perry — who has been not-so-secretly gunning for another shot at the Republican presidential nomination — suddenly found himself at the center of a national controversy. He chose to explain himself Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“I have a really high bar for what I would take offense to, but that would exceed the bar for me on being an offensive comment,” Joe Kernan, anchor, told Perry.