"These are Americans": Rick Perry slams Scott Walker's ISIS-union comparison

Former Texas governor says potential presidential rival went too far with inflammatory remarks at CPAC

By Luke Brinker
Published February 27, 2015 6:02PM (EST)
Scott Walker; Rick Perry       (AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Reed Saxon/photo montage by Salon)
Scott Walker; Rick Perry (AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Reed Saxon/photo montage by Salon)

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry chided Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday for comparing union protesters with the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, dubbing his potential presidential primary rival's remarks "inappropriate" and a "mistake."

“These are Americans,” Perry told MSNBC's Kasie Hunt. “You are talking about, in the case of ISIS, people who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes, who are the face of evil. To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.”

Asked during a question-and-answer session at the Conservative Political Action Conference how he would respond to the threat posed by ISIS, Walker responded Thursday, "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.” The boast was a reference to the massive protests against Walker's signature 2011 law gutting public employee unions.

Walker attracted fierce criticism for the incendiary comparison, and his answer compounded concerns that he remains unschooled on matters of foreign policy and national security. A spokeswoman for the governor sought to clarify his remarks, issuing a statement saying, “Governor Walker believes our fight against ISIS is one of the most important issues our country faces. He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created.”

While much of the pushback against Walker's remarks came from progressives, his comments provided fodder for Perry, who is considering a second White House bid in 2016 following a gaffe-prone presidential run in 2012.

“Scott’s a good man, he’s got a good message out there and he’s an energetic guy and he’s a new face on the block–and if you’ll recall in 2011, I was a new face on the block for about 3 hours,” Perry told Hunt. “Making mistakes – nobody’s perfect – and how you deal with that and how you get over that very quickly is going to be important for him. I think, you know, some of the statements that he’s made are obviously problematic for him.”

Perry is no stranger to controversy stemming from inflammatory comments. Shortly after he entered the 2012 contest, he appeared to threaten then-Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke during a discussion of the central bank chief's quantitative easing measures. “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," Perry told a group of supporters in Iowa. "Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.”

Four years later, Perry is the candidate seeking to elevate the discourse.

Luke Brinker

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