Washington (CNN) – In his first nationally televised interview since launching his presidential bid, Texas Gov. Rick Perry fought back claims that he threatened the state's secession two years ago at a tea party rally in Austin.
"No, I never used that term at all," Perry told Fox News' Sean Hannity on Wednesday. "I have no idea, to be real honest with you, because it was never a factual bit of reporting."
At the time of the comment in 2009, Perry, a vocal critic of President Barack Obama's stimulus package, was arguing that the federal government was spending too much money.
"We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it," Perry said at the tea party rally. "But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."
The comment made national headlines and has since been used by critics to paint the governor as extreme.
But Perry decried the comment Wednesday, saying he wasn't referring to secession.
"But I get why people are frustrated, because they see Washington spending this massive amount of money," Perry said.
Perry also defended Wednesday his positions on Social Security and immigration, two issues his GOP opponents have used as ammunition against him.
He maintained his line that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme," one that will fail to later deliver benefits for young people who are now paying into it.
"I think Americans appreciate people being honest and upfront with them about Social Security," Perry said.
The presidential hopeful sparred with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at last week's CNN/Tea Party Republican Debate in Florida over the program, as both sought to prove they could best improve the system.
Perry said anyone who tries to pin him for wanting to end the program, rather than reform it, is using "scare tactics" that he deemed typically used by Democrats.
"The key is those that are on Social Security today, you don't have a thing in the world to worry about," Perry said. "We made a sacred pledge to you that it's going to be there and fully funded. Don't buy into this scare tactic."
Instead, Perry said the country needs to have a "grown up" conversation with a number of options on the table, including a raise in the retirement age and the use of private accounts.
Some Republicans have also targeted Perry for a Texas law allowing undocumented students who have applied for citizenship to pay in-state college tuition. Critics have attempted to align the law with Obama's DREAM Act, which blocks deportation for undocumented immigrants enrolled in education programs.
But Perry hit back Wednesday, saying the DREAM Act is "straight out amnesty," while the Texas law is an "education issue, not an immigration issue."
"We wanted individuals to be contributing members of society, not a drag on society," Perry said. "That's the American way."