GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry says he hadn't been drinking alcohol or taking medication when he delivered an animated speech last week in New Hampshire, and Republicans in the first-in-the-nation primary state got together Thursday to defend him.
A YouTube video of the address has gone viral online, and political observers have questioned whether Perry was under the influence of a substance.
"No. I was just giving a speech," Perry told the San Francisco Chronicle in a story published Thursday. "I've probably given 1,000 speeches. There are some that have been probably boring, some that have been animated, some that have been in between."
He called it "a pretty typical speech for me."
Last Friday night, Perry was unusually chatty and playful at a benefit dinner for a New Hampshire local think tank, breaking into giggles at one point after receiving a bottle of maple syrup as a parting gift. Comedians and some political observers have seized on the appearance as strange at best. And highlight videos have gone viral.
Nearly a week later, the speech was still being talked about, prompting a handful of New Hampshire Republicans to hold a press conference blaming the media and other campaigns for stoking the buzz surrounding Perry's speech.
New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien and former GOP congressional candidate Jennifer Horn told reporters that the hype had gone too far. Both attended Perry's speech, although neither is formally connected to any presidential campaign.
"We the American people are engaged in the most important responsibility we have as citizens: choosing the next leader of the free world," Horn told reporters. "And we are kind of sick and tired of the gotcha games of politicians and the political press. This sort of irresponsible unsubstantiated storytelling hurts the democratic process."
Horn lashed out at what she called "an 8-minute cut-and-paste, arts-and-crafts video project that somebody made on their desk of a 25-minute serious speech."
"Go back and look at the 25 minute speech and let that one go viral," she said.
Perry has visited New Hampshire several times since launching his presidential bid in August. He has struggled in the polls so far. But New Hampshire voters saw a different man last Friday than the one they have come to know in recent months.
"I sat there thinking, `We need to see more of this Gov. Perry," O'Brien said, recalling his reaction while watching the speech.
The Thursday event was the latest turn in the bizarre buzz surrounding the speech.
Comedian Jon Stewart joked on "The Daily Show" Monday night that, "Best-case scenario, that dude's hammered. Worst-case scenario, that is Perry sober, and every time we've seen him previously, he's been hammered."
Perry told the California newspaper this week that he'd have a glass of wine with Stewart "if he'll buy."
The Perry campaign said it did not organize Thursday's New Hampshire event, although Horn confirmed that she had contacted the campaign, which did not object.