WASHINGTON (AP) — He ran for president twice, but Rick Perry may be best known for two made-for-TV moments: uttering “oops” when he forgot the Energy Department was one of the agencies he pledged to eliminate and being a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”
The former Texas governor is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to become energy secretary, two people with knowledge of the decision say.
If confirmed by the Senate, Perry is likely to shift the department away from renewable energy and toward oil and other fossil fuels that he championed during a record 14 years as governor.
Perry, 66, left office in January 2015 and then launched his second ill-fated bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
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He was a harsh critic of Trump, even calling the billionaire businessman a “cancer to conservatism,” but Perry lasted only three months in the race for the 2016 nomination before dropping out.
Perry later endorsed the Republican nominee and said he’d be willing to work in a Trump administration. He re-emerged in the public spotlight in a brief appearance on this season’s “Dancing with the Stars,” where he was the second contestant eliminated.
Democrats and environmental groups derided Perry’s expected nomination, noting that he is on the record both forgetting about the Energy Department and then remembering he wanted to eliminate it.
“It is deeply unsettling that our current secretary of energy, a renowned nuclear physicist, could be succeeded by a contestant on ‘Dancing with the Stars'” said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Governor Perry is simply not qualified for this position and should be rejected.”
Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, called it “an insult to our functioning democracy. Putting Perry in charge of the Department of Energy is the perfect way to ensure the agency fails at everything it is charged to do.”
But supporters said Perry led a state that has long been a leader in energy production, first in oil and natural gas and now in wind power and other renewable energy as well.
As governor, Perry embodied the “all of the above” approach to U.S. energy production that is backed by both congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama, said Salo Zelermyer, a former Energy Department official under President George W. Bush.
“This approach is a big reason why Texas experienced such enormous job growth during Perry’s tenure. As Texas has shown, it is indeed possible to successfully balance appropriate environmental regulations with domestic energy production and use,” he said.
Trump aides would not publicly confirm that Perry had been selected for energy secretary, but praised him for overseeing growth in Texas that was linked to the energy industry.
“We’re big fans of Gov. Perry,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said.
In his first presidential run, Perry flamed out after a series of missteps.
The best-remembered one came during a presidential debate in 2011 when he couldn’t remember, despite repeated attempts, the third of three federal agencies he had promised to eliminate if elected. He finally muttered “Oops.”
The one he forgot was, ironically, the Energy Department. The two others were Commerce and Education.
Perry has drawn criticism from some environmental activists because he is on the board of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company trying to build a 1,200-mile Dakota Access pipeline that would carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline has sparked protests that have made national headlines.
Perry also serves on the board of another energy firm, Sunoco Logistics Partners.
He has been a vocal skeptic on climate change since before his first run for the White House. During his governorship, though, Texas became a major producer of wind powered-energy.
Perry for years used economic incentive funds controlled by his office to offer tens of billions of dollars to wind producers and other companies promoting alternative energy.
This year, Perry joined the board of a stem cell company where he underwent experimental back surgery before running for president in 2011.
Perry had previously blamed chronic back pain for his “oops” moment and other gaffes that sunk his once-promising campaign, hinting that the procedure carried out by the Houston-based biotechnology company Celltex Therapeutics didn’t help him overcome it.
But the former governor told The Associated Press this fall, after joining the company board, that his health was good and he was a big believer in adult stem cell therapy.
Perry recently demonstrated his fitness with a brief appearance on this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.” He was the second contestant eliminated.
Weissert contributed from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.