OTR Interviews

Anita Perry: Texas Strong Wife on the Campaign Trail

Rick Perry's wife takes vocal and active role in rocky quest for the White House


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 25, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: It was a quiet Thanksgiving for presidential hopeful and Texas governor Rick Perry, who seems to be making some very big headlines lately, from criticizing President Obama for lack of foreign policy leadership to announcing his own plan for a part-time Congress.

I sat down with Perry's wife, Anita, to find out what drives them both in this midst of this very tough campaign.


BREAM: Well, both you and the governor have said he wasn't really excited about the idea of running for president, but you felt in your heart it was something he should consider. You encouraged him. You've admitted since then this has been a really difficult process. So knowing what you know now, do you think you still would encourage him to run?

ANITA PERRY, WIFE OF GOV. RICK PERRY: Absolutely. It was the right choice for us to make. We had several people, though -- and I mean, many people were encouraging him to run. We discussed it as a family, and our children are all in. And you know, are really, really close friends are all in. So I think it was -- I absolutely think it was the right decision, and we'd do it again because we believe in America.

BREAM: And you've said that you feel like you're fighting for the soul of this country. What do you mean by that?

PERRY: We really do. We feel like we're at a dropping-off point, the abyss. And we don't like the direction that our country is going. And I think that we need to get back to our Founding Fathers and the principles that our country was built upon.

As a woman, I have to tell you one of the reasons why I really wanted him to get into this race -- I'm concerned about the safety of our country and the safety of my children and my grandchildren, and I don't want to always have that worry. And Truly, I believe Rick Perry is the man that can keep us safe.

BREAM: Part of this whole process that you have had to live through as a family is the debate process, which has been arduous for every candidate. How tough has it been for you to watch your husband struggle in some of these debates? And how do you encourage him afterwards?

PERRY: I think he's really done well. Yes, he's made a couple of little blunders. I can't stand the debates. I'm going to be honest with you. I'm so nervous as his wife. But I think he's really, really done very well. And I think when he can articulate that message, as he's been doing very well the past two or three weeks, I think the American people will get to know him.

BREAM: After he struggled to remember the agencies that he would like to eliminate, what was the conversation you had with him after the debate?

PERRY: You know, it was just one of those moments in time where you're -- you're human. And I just told him I loved him and -- you know, I think I said, Oh, it's a word. I had no idea how big that would be. But I told him I loved him because, really, I wanted him to do this and I believe in him.

BREAM: Got to be hard as a spouse to have to watch the attacks on him and questioning his record, questioning his positions and where he stands. Other spouses on the trail have had other challenges, Callista Gingrich, delving into her personal life with Newt, Gloria Cain with the allegations against her husband. Any advice to those women as you're all out there on the trail together?

PERRY: Our spouses are truly giving back to this country, and so many people don't get to see this through our eyes. So I would just have to say enjoy it as much as you can. Don't look at those polls. Don't read the negative media. You know, it's not going to help you get through the day.

BREAM: Iowa's a place where people are very vocal about their faith. It's something that's important to you and the governor, as well. What role does it play for you?

PERRY: Faith is very important to us. I think that's how we get through the day, is we rely on our faith.

BREAM: It is something you all have been very public about. It's not a secret. But you say that you feel your husband has been brutalized because of his faith. What do you mean by that?

PERRY: Well, I think part of it is we knew we would be scrutinized. I wasn't quite so sure about the national media attention, but I've learned a lot of lessons along the way. And I've learned that there's a camera on me most of the time now, so I'm much more guarded than I would have been.

BREAM: I want to ask you about a few of the -- the issues. You're a nurse. You grew up the daughter of a physician. Do you think that there is a need for health care reform in this country? And how do you think that the president's health care law is getting it right or wrong? Is there any merit to what he's trying to do?

PERRY: I grew up in this. I saw how the community respected and loved my father because he was a one-on-one person. He was really a bedside physician. I want every American to have that same opportunity to have the choice that they want, to have that physician that they want. It's another reason I really encouraged Rick to get into this race. I don't like socialized medicine, and that's the path we're going.

BREAM: You mention the word "socialism," and that scares a lot of people when that comes up. Do you think this president is socialist, some of his policies are socialist? How would you characterize him?

PERRY: I truly do. And my father in 1970 said, the moment we take a dollar from the federal government, they will tell us how to start practicing medicine. And I've seen it as a nurse in a hospital, in administration. I've certainly seen that, how we practice medicine by a book and how the diagnoses are related and how that you are paid by that, and I don't think that's right.

I think, truly, you know, we need to be paying for the very best that we can get. So to me, yes, it is socialized medicine. People can call it what they want to, national health care, nationalized health care, but that is what it is, in my opinion.

BREAM: On this journey, have you had a chance to build friendships with some of the other spouses that are really probably the only people who know exactly what you're going through at this point?

PERRY: Well, I have. Mary Kay Huntsman and I were friends through the Republican Governors Association. We were friends then, we're better friends now, and we're going to be friends after this. And Callista Gingrich, who I've gotten to know her better on the trail. I know all of the spouses except one. I met Karen Santorum the other night. She's wonderful. What a beautiful woman!

There's so many. But interestingly enough, I saw Cindy McCain the night before last, and she said, How are you? And I gave her a big hug and I said, Only you know.

BREAM: On that, we thank you very much, Mrs. Perry.

PERRY: Shannon, thank you for having me.