Did Anita Perry Influence Rick Perry’s Decision to Make the HPV Vaccine Mandatory?

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Anita Perry. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Rick Perry has taken a great deal of heat for making the HPV vaccine mandatory in Texas. Social conservatives disagree on principle; Perry opponents point to his ties to Merck, the company that manufactures the vaccine, as evidence of opportunistic hypocrisy. Now, the New York Times says maybe his wife, a nurse with a specific interest in women's health, convinced him that it was a good idea from a public health perspective.


The Perry campaign would not say what role, if any, Mrs. Perry, 59, played in her husband’s actions regarding the vaccine, but her passions on the issue of combating HPV are known. In a keynote address given at a women’s health summit meeting two years before Mr. Perry’s executive order, Mrs. Perry specifically focused her comments on HPV. [...]

Mrs. Perry’s name also surfaces as a catalyst in a cache of internal e-mails that reporters at Politico obtained last month through a Public Information Act request to the state for correspondence about the decision to vaccinate girls.

Days after Mr. Perry issued the executive order, he forwarded an e-mail supportive of the vaccine to Mrs. Perry under the heading “fyi.” In a response, Mrs. Perry stated that a prominent Dallas Republican “told me at lunch today that she would help you with some conservative groups.” Mr. Perry then forwarded that e-mail to his deputy chief of staff, adding, “Fwd to the correct folks in the office.”

It's an intriguing notion — and one that probably helps Perry out on the PR front, too. It's fine for a wife not to hew quite as closely to conservative orthodoxy (think George and Laura Bush), and a man who listens to his wife's counsel comes across as enlightened. It softens him, but in a good way. Conservatives can blame the wife on the vaccine thing while still getting behind their guy, while more moderate Republicans can find hope in the idea that Perry is suggestible on certain issues.

A Political Wife’s Influence on an Issue [NYT]