The one presidential candidate who cannot make a mistake did just that Friday.
Addressing Wednesday’s massacre at a South Carolina church, former Texas governor Rick Perry referred to it as an “accident.” His campaign quickly clarified that he meant “incident,” but not before the apparent slip of the tongue sparked a social media backlash, inviting inevitable comparisons to the so-called “oops” moment that defined Perry’s last bid for the White House.
The comment came during a TV interview in which Perry was asked about President Obama’s response to the shooting, which left nine people dead at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. In a speech Thursday, Obama suggested more gun control might be necessary to prevent tragedies like it.
“This is the M.O. of this administration anytime there is a accident like this,” Perry told Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg in an interview published Friday. “You know, the president’s clear. He doesn’t like for Americans to have guns, and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message.”
Shortly after Perry’s remark began making headlines and ricocheting around social media, spokesman Travis Considine indicated the former governor misspoke. “From the context of his comments, it is clear Gov. Perry meant incident,” Considine said in a statement.
But the sound bite had already become a hot topic online, evoking memories of the 2012 debate where Perry was unable to remember the third federal agency he would eliminate if elected president.
In the Newsmax interview, Perry spoke extensively about the shooting, saying he did not know whether it was an act of terror but did know it was a “crime of hate.” He also suggested the alleged shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, may have been “medicated,” apparently tying the issue to his campaign’s outreach to current and former members of the military.
“I know for a fact, being a substantial supporter of our military and our veterans, that the Veterans Administration, for instance, is handing out these opioids in massive amounts,” Perry told Malzberg. “And then people question, ‘Well then why can’t these young individuals get work?’ or ‘Why is the suicide rate so high?’ “
Perry was also asked whether the Confederate flag should fly over the South Carolina Capitol in the aftermath of the shooting, which many consider racially motivated. In his response, Perry reminded Malzberg that the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Texas has the right to refuse to issue Confederate license plates, a decision with which he agrees. And Perry indicated he would be open to taking down the flag in South Carolina, saying “maybe there’s a good conversation that needs to be had.”