Video of the Day: Perry Reminds Us He Never Said 'Secede'

Now that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is leading the Republican presidential race, he's distancing himself from previous comments about secession, or at least from how they were widely interpreted.

"No, and I never used that term at all," he told Sean Hannity in a Fox News interview on Wednesday night, when the host asked him whether he wanted Texas to secede from the U.S.

Critics have harped on Perry for the secession-related comments ever since he made them at an April 15, 2009 tea party rally in Austin, Texas. Even if some of those critics have exaggerated by calling Perry an outright secessionist, the governor seemed open to Texas leaving the Union depending on Washington's policy trajectory.

But Perry is right: He didn't say "secede."

During his speech at the 2009 rally (video here), an attendee yelled out, "Secede!" A reporter asked Perry, offstage, what he thought of secession. Perry replied:

Well I think there's a lot of different scenarios. Texas is a unique place. When we came in the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come out of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot.

ThinkProgress, meanwhile, notes that Perry also said in March 2009 that "we're thinking about that again," with regard to Texas leaving the Union.

While Perry didn't use the "s" word, Paul Burka of Texas Monthly points out that the governor has his 1845 history wrong. Secession is not Texas's right, he writes:

Not true, and it's rather amazing that Perry made such an egregious historical error. He didn't use the s-word, but what he did say was incorrect. Texas did not enter the union with the right "to be able to leave if we decided to do that." It's pretty much American History 101 that states don't have the right to leave the Union. Hundreds of thousand of Americans gave their lives to preserve that principle. ...

Perry probably confused the fact that the treaty of annexation allowed Texas to divide into five states, with the idea that Texas could opt out of the Union.

The 2009 remark earned the little-known Perry a lot of national attention, at a time when tea partiers widely alleged a socialist conspiracy in the White House. Now that he's running for president, he'll likely be forced to explain those comments a few more times.

Video credit: Fox News/ThinkProgress/YouTube

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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