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Rick Perry Refuses To Disavow Robert Jeffress, Stands By Wife's 'Brutalized' Remarks

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry blitzed the morning shows ahead of a jobs speech Friday in Pittsburgh, Pa., trying to deflect attention away from his falling poll numbers and association with Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress and toward his jobs plan.

In multiple appearances, Perry said that polls go "up and down," and that he remained unconcerned about them since it was early the race. His numbers have fallen precipitously since he announced he would run for president in mid-August, entering in first place in national polls.

He said the controversy surrounding Rev. Robert Jeffress, who endorsed and introduced him at the Values Voters Summit in Washington last Friday and called Mormonism "a cult" was a "distraction." Perry repeated that he did not agree with the comments made about the religion of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney but refused to disavow Jeffress.

"But if we're going to spend the time in the campaign defending what someone who has endorsed us has said out there in the public, President Obama is going to spend a lot of time talking about defending people who are saying things about him that he probably doesn't stand by," he said on "Today," then changing the subject to his jobs plan.

When asked about comments made by his wife Thursday that the media and political opponents had "brutalized" his campaign and attacked him for his faith, he said he stood by her remarks. "I think she’s right on both cases," Perry said on "Good Morning America." "My understanding is that she said I'm the most conservative candidate in the race and 'he's a Christian.' So I haven’t got anything I can add to that, and she's hit me on my mark both times there."

On CNN, he said, "You know, family members always take these campaigns more substantially personal than the candidate."

NBC's Matt Lauer asked Perry how opening up federal lands for energy exploration would create jobs in the short term given the potential for lawsuits. He replied that he would pass tort reform at the federal level, pull back "job-killing regulations," and "rebuild the EPA."

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