Perry parries hecklers in Portsmouth

Gov. Rick Perry in Texas greeted a crowd in downtown Portsmouth, N.H.,
on Thursday morning as he made his bid for votes
in the state’s Republican primary
Photo By Darren Mccollester

By Ashley Parker
The New York Times

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry of Texas took his popovers with a side of hecklers Thursday morning, when he stopped into Popovers on the Square in downtown Portsmouth to greet voters.

More than a dozen protesters, many of them mobilized by the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, welcomed Mr. Perry with signs — “My financial security is not a Ponzi scheme” and “America says no to Texas Ugly” read two — but he easily breezed past them to shake hands with the owner, who thanked him for “attracting a crowd.”


As Mr. Perry, wearing a white shirt and no jacket, shook hands with a mix of well-wishers and naysayers on the cafe’s patio, Kristin Bunce, 43, helped ease her 9-year-old son, Sam Beane, into Mr. Perry’s path.

Sam, wide-eyed and looking up at the governor, asked Mr. Perry a question. The governor crouched down so he was just inches from Sam’s face, and in a soft, calm voice began to answer.

“How old do I think the earth is?” Mr. Perry said. “You know what? I don’t have any idea. I know it’s pretty old, so it goes back a long, long way. I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long, how old the earth is.”

Ms. Bunce urged Sam to ask the governor about his views on evolution, and Mr. Perry began to answer her question, still talking to Sam.

“And here your mom was asking about evolution, and you know, it’s a theory that’s out there and it’s got some gas in it,” Mr. Perry continued. “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”

He added: “I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right. Thank you.”


“I asked him how old he thought the earth was,” said Sam, a rising fourth grader, recounting the exchange. “He said he didn’t know.”

Ms. Bunce expressed frustration that Mr. Perry believed in teaching creationism, a theory that is not accepted by mainstream scientists.

“Evolution, I think, is correct,” Sam said, looking up at his mom.

As Mr. Perry made his way toward the counter, he cheerfully dismissed the hecklers — one of whom continuously pressed him on his views about Social Security — smiling at them, reaching over their heads to sign copies of his book, and ordering a popover, which he called a “pop-up.” He bit into his “pop-up,” handing over a warm, maple-buttered piece of the pastry to his wife, as a man shouted, “Let them eat cake, Governor Perry!”

Global warming, a topic that Mr. Perry addressed Wednesday at a Politics and Eggs breakfast in Bedford, N.H., came up again when State Representative Robin Read, a Democrat who sits on the New Hampshire’s Science, Technology and Energy Committee, asked Mr. Perry if he thought global warming was a man-made phenomenon.

“No, I don’t,” the governor replied. “I think the record is still out on whether global warming is man-made or not. I’m a skeptic.”

As Mr. Perry pressed on, his wife thanked Mr. Read for coming out, but Mr. Read later said he was disturbed by the governor’s response.

“To be a global warming skeptic in this day and age is stunning in its ignorance,” Mr. Read said. “His state produces more wind energy than any state in the country, so by thinking global warming is not caused by man, he’s undercutting his own state’s renewable energy industry.”

A few tables over, a man had sidled up to Mr. Perry with a solution to the country’s economic troubles. “I know what’s wrong with our economy,” the man said. “We’re looking up the wrong end of the horse!”

A grin spread across Mr. Perry’s face as he turned and, without saying a word, headed for the door. A few moments later, he was still chuckling quietly to himself.

“Man, that’s funny,” he said.

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