Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has denounced a New York Times story suggesting that powerful groups of social conservatives and evangelicals, including his organization, are planning to oppose Jeb Bush in a presidential race.
"It shouldn't surprise anyone, including the media, that conservative leaders are talking to each other about the 2016 presidential cycle, and what it'll take to win," Perkins said in an email to supporters obtained by The Hill
"These ongoing conversations among conservatives were the subject of a front-page New York Times article today, which suggested that our movement is organizing against Gov. Jeb Bush.
"While I can't speak for everyone, I am not against Jeb. In fact, I've met with him, and there are several things I like about him."
Perkins says that he is still mulling over who to support in a crowded GOP field of likely presidential candidates, but he has not eliminated Bush, the former Florida governor, from consideration.
"I will support the right candidate at the right time," Perkins said. "Will that be Jeb Bush? I don't know. But I do know that we share a mutual respect, a love for our country, and a desire to unite America behind a courageous man or woman who can repair the damage done by this administration and restore our faith in government."
The New York Times article
says: "The leaders of evangelical and other socially conservative groups say they do not believe that Mr. Bush…would fight for the issues they care most about: opposing same-sex marriage, holding the line on an immigration overhaul and rolling back abortion rights."
The quote was incorrectly attributed to Perkins by Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade when he mentioned the article while interviewing Bush.
"You're going to be a target of The New York Times," Kilmeade told Bush. "They're quoting Tony Perkins, and he's got a big Christian support staff, and he says the Christian right are looking for anybody to unite behind except for you."
Although Perkins is quoted in the story correctly, he never made the comment that Kilmeade erroneously claimed he had made.
In reply to Kilmeade's remark about Perkins, Bush said, "I don't read The New York Times, to be honest with you, so I guess you're going to force me to do so."
While appearing stunned by Perkins' alleged comment, Bush said he had held a meeting with the FRC president recently, and he has "enormous respect" for him. "I hope I'll earn his respect as well," Bush said
He added, "I have a record as governor; I did more than talk about things. I actually acted on my core beliefs as it relates to traditional marriage which I support, the sanctity of life, which I acted on numerous occasions and that record will be, if I go beyond the consideration of this to an active candidate, I'll be able to share that.
"There are very few people who can actually tell that story the way I can, because for eight years I served and consistently advocated my views on moral issues, so this will all sort out."
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