Rift in Perry Camp Over Ad Criticizing Gays in Military

Charles Krupa/AP Photo

Rick Perry's campaign faced some infighting this week as one campaign strategist objected to the creation of a television ad in which the Texas governor criticized gay soldiers serving openly in the military.

In an exchange with Nelson Warfield, who created the ad, Tony Fabrizio, a Perry pollster and top strategist, reportedly called the ad "nuts," according to an email  obtained by the Huffington Post.

Warfield told the Huffington Post Fabrizio opposed the development of the ad from the start.

"Tony was against it from the get-go," Warfield told the Huffington Post.  "It was the source of some extended conversation in the campaign. To be very clear, that spot was mine from writing the poll question to test[ing] it to drafting the script to overseeing production."

Ray Sullivan, communications director for the Perry campaign, admitted there was a disagreement within the camp about the advertisement, but he downplayed the division in a statement to ABC News.

"In every campaign, there are strategy and tactics discussions and debates.  In our case they are quickly resolved and we move forward with strong strategy, and in this case a strong, new TV ad," Sullivan wrote in an email.  "We ran the ad because it accurately reflects Gov. Perry's faith and opposition to the Obama administration's attacks on faith-based organizations.  The Obama administration  attacks include penalizing religious health care providers, attacking the right of churches and religious organizations to make certain hiring decisions and refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court. It is a good strong ad that accurately reflects the governor's faith and policy positions.  We believe it is a message that will resonate with a majority of Republican voters, especially Iowans."

Titled "Strong," the television ad, which was released Wednesday and will air in Iowa, rails against  Obama for his "war on religion" while also criticizing the policy that allows gay men and women to openly serve in the military.

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school," Perry says in the ad. "As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion, and I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."

Bill Burton, senior strategist for Priorities USA, a pro-Obama group, called Perry's latest ad "astonishingly intolerant" and termed the TV spot a "war on gays."

The Human Rights Campaign weighed in on the advertisement, calling it a misrepresentation of "the views of the hundreds of thousands of people of faith in this country who live openly or advocate as allies for the LGBT members of their community."

"We cannot be in the business of forcing people to choose between who they are, who they love, and their faith.  Rick Perry's rhetoric presumes that you can't be Christian and supportive of LGBT people.  Yet many Christians see in Jesus' example a call to love and support their LGBT neighbors.  Rick Perry is trying to claim religion for political motives but it won't work.  Our faith is too precious to be used as a cynical tool for political ends," Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion & Faith program said in a statement.

A number of groups have developed parodies of the ad, poking fun at the Texas governor's use of religion to criticize gay men and women serving in the military.

"I'm not ashamed to admit I'm an atheist, but you know there's something wrong with this country when politicians think it's ok to hate on gays and non believers in ads," a video by Second City says.  "Rick Perry may believe in God, but I've seen his polls, and God does not believe in Rick Perry."

The Colbert Report lampooned the TV spot Thursday as Perry's "pro-Christmas" ad, even having two men dressed as Santa Claus kiss under mistletoe.

"Governor Perry is right thanks to the gays our children can't openly celebrate the birth of our savior in school and yet these gays in the military can openly celebrate their favorite holiday - being away from their family, risking their lives in Afghanistan," Colbert quipped.  "I for one am offended by the those who would condemn the Christmas lifestyle.  They don't understand that unlike being gay, loving Christmas is not a choice."