In last night’s Republican presidential debate, Gov. Rick Perry (R) faced harsh criticism over his decision to mandate that all Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine. Not only were conservatives uncomfortable with the idea of a health care mandate, but the fact that the vaccine’s drugmaker, Merck, was a major donor to Perry and had hired the governor’s former chief of staff as a lobbyist drew accusations of cronyism.
After his attempts to deflect the issue in earlier debates proved unsuccessful, Perry took a different tack this time. “I got lobbied on this issue,” Perry said solemnly. “I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady who had stage 4 cervical cancer. I spent a lot of time with her. She came by my office talked to me about in program.” Watch it:
However, contra to Perry’s insinuation that his relationship with Heather Burcham led him to require the HPV vaccine for all Texas girls, ABC News’ Arlette Saenz pointed out that he hadn’t befriended the woman until after issuing the mandate:
Months after the Texas state legislature revoked the executive decision, Perry expressed in very personal terms the potential the HPV vaccine holds for preventing cervical cancer in young women. Perry spoke of the missed opportunity of the Texas government at a memorial service for Heather Burcham, a 31-year-old woman who died from cervical cancer after contracting HPV.
Perry and Burcham, a teacher from Houston, Texas, struck up an unusual friendship in the months after he issued his executive order. While the Texas legislature was working to revoke the mandate, Burcham traveled to Austin to testify about her personal experience with cervical cancer and how the HPV vaccine might help spare other young women from suffering a fate similar to her own.
Perry’s first explanation to conservatives was that it couldn’t have been cronyism because Merck’s $5,000 donation (which was actually $30,000) wasn’t sufficiently large for him to “be bought.” Last night’s account was that a dying cancer patient prompted his actions, yet it’s now revealed that their friendship didn’t begin until after the mandate order. What will Perry’s new explanation be in the next Republican debate on Oct. 11?