“I believe the one who is best positioned, best prepared to lead this nation forward, pulling it out of the tailspin that this president has put us in, I believe is Ted Cruz,” Perkins said in making the announcement to Megyn Kelly on Fox News Channel’s The Kelly File Tuesday night (watch below, courtesy of Right Wing Watch). He stressed that it is a personal endorsement, not the endorsement of the FRC or its affiliates.
Perkins has already been working to build religious right support for the Republican U.S. senator from Texas, as Right Wing Watch notes, but he did not make an official endorsement until Tuesday.
Cruz’s campaign quickly issued a press release praising Perkins and welcoming his support. “Tony is a man of incredible principle and faith,” Cruz said in the release. “His unwavering commitment to fight for life and marriage, and religious liberty have reverberated throughout the nation and continue to awaken a culture of life and faith throughout our communities. Tony is a steadfast fighter for the principles that have made this country a shining beacon for liberty. I am honored to have his blessing and endorsement for 2016 so that we can together coalesce conservatives and restore the values upon which this nation was founded.”
Perkins and his organization are staunch opponents of marriage equality and LGBT rights in general. In his recent State of the Family address, Perkins said marriage equality is responsible for “havoc in our homes and blood in our streets,” called the LGBT-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (now repealed) a “special rights” law, and praised antigay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. In 2012, as Uganda considered enacting a bill mandating life imprisonment or possibly the death penalty for certain instances of gay sex, he lauded the nation as “prospered by God.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, has classified the FRC as a hate group because of the lies it spreads in its work against LGBT rights. For instance, it claims LGBT people attempt to “recruit” children and are more likely than straight people to be child molesters.
While Perkins’s endorsement isn’t the endorsement of the group, the far-right, antigay Cruz has the personal backing of others who’ve been connected with the organization, including founder James Dobson and former FRC president Gary Bauer. The latter sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
Cruz has been endorsed by several other individual religious right activists, such as Sandy Rios, Bob Vander Plaats, Richard Viguerie, and Ken Cuccinelli, and he has an institutional endorsement from the National Organization for Marriage. And he just received the backing of Mike Bickle, a minister who considers marriage equality a harbinger of the end of the world.
Cruz, the son of a deeply antigay minister, continues to court the Christian right with statements like one he made Tuesday night at a campaign stop in Iowa, saying the nation is in “a time of crisis” due to marriage equality and the advancement of legal protections for transgender people. He has sometimes disappointed this voting bloc by accepting support from gay donors and for saying that rescinding marriage equality wouldn’t be a priority in his presidency. He assured an audience member at the Tuesday event, however, that it would be a priority.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump, meanwhile, picked up the endorsement Tuesday of Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the late, infamously antigay televangelist. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, as Trump announced his candidacy at Liberty University, the conservative Christian school where Falwell Jr. is president, and Falwell Jr. has frequently praised the bombastic businessman. “Trump reminds me so much of my father,” he said in a December interview with Fox News.
Some religious right leaders objected to the endorsement, though, questioning Trump’s religiosity, personal morality, and commitment to their agenda. “The late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the son who bore his name had endorsed the most immoral and ungodly man to ever run for president of the United States,” John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, told Politico.