Yesterday, I wrote about the controversy caused by an online video voter guide that had been posted by the political arm of Focus on the Family. The commentary, which featured the opinions of Tony Perkins, who heads the Family Research Council, were notable for their harsh assessment of Mike Huckabee’s credentials as a fiscal and national security conservative, and their relatively glowing assessment of Mitt Romney. (At some point Thursday, the Huckabee video was altered, adding more positive comments about his stands on social issues.)
Since then, the two participants in the video conversations have reacted strongly to any suggestion that their comments amounted to an under-the-radar endorsement of Romney, who was the only GOP candidate to receive an overwhelmingly positive appraisal in the videos. Tom Minnery, of Focus on the Family, gave Marc Ambinder the following statement:
First of all, rest assured that we have not been endorsing any candidates, either “stealthily” or otherwise. Our comments are what they are — a review of what the candidates, both Democrat and Republican, are saying on issues we think Christians care about. By the way, something else is happening here. I believe the mainstream media doesn’t quite know how to deal with alternative media such as ours. They’ve always considered themselves to have the corner on commentary, and now that we are able to reach our audience directly, rather than through them, and to say directly to our audience what we want to say, they have no pigeonhole to put us in.
Then this morning, the Family Research Council sent me this statement from Perkins:
Last Saturday night, after the polls closed in South Carolina, I joined our friends at Focus on the Family Action in a live web cast discussion of the election returns. My comments about each of the presidential candidates were excerpted for home page clips on the Focus Action web site. The interpretation being given to those comments by some is just wrong. I have not endorsed any candidate for the White House and have no plans to do so. During the course of almost a year of speaking about this tense and competitive race, I have talked to thousands of reporters and offered reams of commentary. Despite the urgings of many close friends and allies in the social issue trenches, people who have been at my side for battle after battle, I have not chosen — and have not plans — to give an explicit or implied endorsement to any individual. On the contrary, I have issued consistent calls for the candidates seeking the support of values voters to embrace fully all three components of a conservative vision for a strong national defense, traditional morality, and economic liberty. I have been pleased to see, to speak and to write publicly in recent days about the extent to which Senator John McCain, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Mitt Romney — and Fred Thompson, who has now ended his campaign — have emphasized these themes in their speeches and other communications. I have commended Sen. McCain for his insight in support the now successful surge in Iraq and have noted his clear calls for the reversal of Roe and the appointment of judges in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts, I have noted Gov. Romney’s strong appeals for an intact three-part conservative coalition, and I have repeatedly praised and defended Mike Huckabee for his lifelong defense of our religious heritage, innocent human life and traditional marriage.
Those who would like to view the videos, in their current form, can click here.
ON A RELATED NOTE: Check out Rita Healy’s article on Time.com today about James Dobson, who runs Focus on the Family. Its title: “Is Dobson’s Political Clout Fading?”