Supporters of candidate Ron Paul are alleging that Governor Rick Perry assaulted him during last night’s Republican debate. They support their allegation with four pictures that are ambiguous at best.
Details of the Ron Paul assault story
The Reagan Library Republican Debate lasted nearly two hours, with two breaks for commercials. During one of them (the story does not say which one), Rick Perry left his place on the stage and walked up to Ron Paul at Paul’s podium. One of four pictures (from Associated Press and/or Reuters) then shows Perry laying his right hand on Paul’s arm and pointing his left forefinger at Paul. (Neither AP nor Reuters have cleared their pictures for reproduction.) In the second picture, Paul has backed away from the podium, and Perry now stands behind it, still talking to Paul. The picture series also has a close-up shot of the two men talking head-to-head, and a last picture showing Jon Huntsman stepping up to the podium between them. But Huntsman has his hands at his sides.
Two blog posts (Tennessee Sons of Liberty and Freedom-Won) repeat the assault charge by this Ron Paul site. International Business Times had this article, saying that Perry “physically grabbed” Paul. The Paul site says this:
During a commercial break at Wednesday’s Republican debate, Rick Perry and Ron Paul continued their spirited exchange on stage. Suddenly, Perry grabbed Ron Paul’s forearm while aggressively pointing his index finger towards the Congressman’s face. Alerted by Perry’s menacing gestures, Ron Paul’s bodyguard (front left) was standing by, ready to protect the Congressman.
A second look
But Mediaite.com has a more skeptical take on the story. According to Tommy Christopher at Mediaite, the AP carried the first photo with this caption:
Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry, left, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, talk during a break at a Republican presidential candidates debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Simi Valley, Calif.
Photo: AP, Jae C. Hong / AP
Christopher might reasonably wonder: Is that all that Hong has to say about a knock-down, drag-out fight that almost broke out in front of him? In fact, he says:
No reporter is going to pass up a juicy commercial-break dustup.
Furthermore, no other news outlet has filed any reports on any story of Rick Perry and Ron Paul in a physical fight. Fox News Channel has mentioned the debate all day long, and said nothing about any fight or even the rumor.
Tennessee Sons of Liberty embedded two YouTube videos (see below) to support their story. The first shows the first two pictures (but not the one with Jon Huntsman), plus footage of Perry pointing into the chest of a student at the University of Iowa. The second clip contains a more complete context. (In the Iowa footage, Perry asks the student whether he will let him answer, and then walks away, saying that the student does not know what he’s talking about.)
Jon Huntsman does not look like a man trying to break up a fight. Without a caption, the conversation could be (and likely is) totally harmless.
Neither Tennessee Sons of Liberty nor Freedom-Won have made clear whether they have any legal right to embed their pictures, or where they came from.
The video clips of Perry in Iowa do not show evidence either of disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace. Viewers may decide for themselves what they do show.
Featured image: Rick Perry at CPAC
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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