But at this week's debate, Perry had a pretty good answer to that accusation. In fact, it was probably his finest moment during an otherwise very unimpressive performance:
"I got lobbied on this issue. 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 the program."
Perry isn't exactly known for his compassion, but that's a pretty compelling reason to mandate vaccination. And it sure sounds a lot better than some of the other suggested reasons he might have been moved to support mandatory vaccination:
Over the past five years, it turns out that Merck [the company that manufacturers the vaccine] gave over $350,000 to the Republican Governors Association, a period in which Perry was heavily involved with the group, and the RGA in turn gave $4 million to Rick Perry.
And wait some more! Merck's lobbyist on the vaccine issue was Mike Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff. Toomey recently co-founded a super PAC that plans to raise over $50 million for Perry's campaign.
And that's on top of the $30,000 Merck has donated directly to Perry in the past. But Perry insisted that all that money—well, the $5,000 he was willing to admit he'd received, anyway—wasn't the reason he signed an executive order mandating the vaccine. No, it was because he was lobbied by one young woman suffering with cancer. Just one problem—it's not true:
Perry on Feb. 2, 2007, signed the order directing the state Health and Human Services commissioner to mandate human papillomavirus vaccination for all girls before admission to the sixth grade. Perry at the time released a statement saying that the vaccine "provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer," which HPV can cause.
Perry met Burcham after Feb. 2, 2007, campaign spokesman Mark Miner told CNN Friday, but he was not sure of the precise date. Miner said Perry never claimed to have met Burcham before he signed the order.
So Perry is claiming that he signed this order in an act of compassion because he was lobbied by someone he didn't meet until after he signed the order. And he was so moved by her story of suffering, after he actually did meet her, that when the legislature passed a bill to repeal his order, he didn't veto the bill. He let his order go down in defeat. That's how moved he was.
We don't know why Rick Perry really signed that order. But we do know one thing: it wasn't because he was lobbied by a "31-year-old young lady who had Stage 4 cervical cancer."