Perry: Voters don't want political 'sideshows'

By the Associated Press | October 14, 2011 | 7:35 AM EDT

In this Oct. 12, 2011, photo, Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at GOP forum in Indianapolis. Republicans aren’t sold on Mitt Romney and they’ve been looking for other presidential candidates. That’s about all that polls show with certainty less than three months before the first votes are cast in the GOP presidential primary. At least eight other Republicans, including Perry, have seen their standings soar in GOP primary surveys since the year began. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry is calling the controversy over rival Mitt Romney's religious faith a campaign distraction, saying out of work Americans aren't interested in "side issues and sideshows." Appearing on morning television, Perry again defended himself against criticism in the wake of statements by a supportive minister from Dallas who asserted that Romney is not a Christian, and that Mormonism is a cult. That statement by Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, came as he introduced Perry at a recent speech.

Perry said Friday, "We clearly said we didn't agree with that statement."

But on ABC's "Good Morning America," the Texas governor also said, "The issue is, are we going to tell people what they can say? And I'm not going to be one of those."