Texas governor Rick Perry poked fun at his former Republican presidential rivals on Saturday, joking to a dinner crowd about Mitt Romney’s good looks and comparing his own college degree in animal husbandry to “what Rick Santorum thinks gay marriage leads to.”
Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, reported on Perry’s routine at the Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner, an annual event of comedy skits and roasting speeches thrown by the oldest journalists’ organization in D.C. The short-lived presidential candidate delivered remarks that focused on the well-documented gaffes of his campaign. Gay audiences in particular will remember the roundly criticized “Strong” ad, in which he declared, “You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
Speaking to dinner guests about his once-promising bid, Perry said, “Here is the hardest part for me. It was the weakest Republican field in history, and they kicked my butt.”
In one curious turn, Perry joked about front-runner Romney, who did not attend the dinner, by saying, “I like Mitt Romney as much as one really good-looking man can like a really good-looking man and not break Texas law.”
The comment appeared to be a reference to Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court decision from 2003 that invalidated antisodomy laws in Texas and 13 other states. As governor during that time, Perry was a vociferous defender of the law, although, as Talking Points Memo notes, he seemed to forget the landmark case last December when asked about it at an Iowa town hall. While rendered unenforceable by the decision, the antigay law remains on the books because some Republican state lawmakers refuse to remove it.
Perry, a Texas A&M grad, suggested that his campaign troubles could have stemmed from holding a college degree in the wrong subject, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Animal husbandry,” he said. “That sounds like what Rick Santorum thinks gay marriage leads to.”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the speech. His campaign lasted from August through January, when he withdrew and endorsed Newt Gingrich in advance of the South Carolina primary. The former House speaker won that contest but has since lagged behind Santorum in polls.