Huffpost Politics

Anita Perry On Husband Rick Perry's HPV Decision: 'I Wish He'd Talked To Me First'

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Anita Perry, wife of GOP presidential contender Rick Perry, sat down with PARADE Magazine to discuss her husband's candidacy.

The interview, which will appear in its entirety in PARADE's October 23 issue, offers a closer look at the Texas Governor's wife of nearly 30 years. The Lone Star State's First Lady discussed, among other issues, her husband's controversial 2007 executive order regarding the HPV vaccine. HuffPost's Laura Bassett provides background on the HPV controversy:

As the Republican presidential field continues to attack Texas Gov. Rick Perry's executive order mandating the HPV vaccine for young girls, health advocates are growing worried that the vaccine itself is being stigmatized.

In the two most recent presidential debates, Perry has had to repeatedly explain and defend the executive order, which he says he signed in order to help prevent girls from developing cervical cancer as a result of contracting the sexually transmitted virus. But his fellow Republican candidates have seized the opportunity to attack him over the issue, at times using some alarming and misleading rhetoric about the vaccine.

In the PARADE interview, Mrs. Perry is asked by the magazine what role she played in the HPV decision. She responds that she "didn't know anything about it." More from the interview:

What was your reaction when you heard about it?

-I wish he’d talked to me first.

Was it the wrong decision?

-No, but I thought he handled it the wrong way. I’ve been cochair for the March of Dimes immunization program, and I’m pro-immunization. I would have supported the vaccine. I do not see it as an opening for sexual promiscuity in any way. I see it as another immunization.

Do you think your husband’s taking some unfair hits?

-Yes, he’s said he made a mistake. He just wants to get rid of cancer in our lifetime. I don’t know how many other men would admit, “I made a mistake.”

The New York Times recently examined the potential role of Perry's wife in the HPV decision. In the Times report, Mrs. Perry is described as "a nurse, country doctor’s daughter, and career-long advocate for victims of sexual assault who has been a vocal proponent of immunizations." From the report:

The Perry campaign would not say what role, if any, Mrs. Perry, 59, played in her husband’s actions regarding the vaccine, but her passions on the issue of combating HPV are known. In a keynote address given at a women’s health summit meeting two years before Mr. Perry’s executive order, Mrs. Perry specifically focused her comments on HPV.

“There is no reason why knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer cannot be as common as information about childhood immunizations and mammograms,” she said, according to a transcript of the speech on the governor’s Web site. “We are fighting for the well-being of women all over the nation and setting a standard for cancer treatment that is unsurpassed. I am confident that through efforts like we’ve seen in Texas and the work at this conference, we will see the number of cervical cancer victims decrease.”

Politico took a look at internal emails from the state of Texas regarding the HPV decision and found that "[Governor] Perry himself was almost entirely absent from the implementation of this key decision." His wife appears in the email correspondence:

His own emails appear in only one thread in the entire 700 page cache: On February 6, 2007, as the initiative was rolling out, he received a supportive email from a friend, which he forwarded to his wife, Anita, under the heading, "fyi."

Anita Perry responded, "Tammy Cotten Hartnett told me at lunch today that she would help you with some conservative groups," referring to a prominent Dallas Republican.

Perry then forwarded the thread to his deputy chief of staff, Kathy Walt: "Fwd to the correct folks in the office."

Anita Perry's interview with PARADE is not the first time that the Texas First Lady has shared her opinions about the ongoing presidential race. Following a Florida debate in September, she told C-SPAN, "I think he [Governor Perry] would tell you other night was not his best performance." She went on to explain that he was "only gonna get better." In addition, she told The Des Moines Register that her husband has "never had a debate class or a debate coach in his life. … He’s going to be better prepared next time.”

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