Perry struggled with sleep disorder during campaign
September 23rd, 2012
05:06 PM ET
6 years ago

Perry struggled with sleep disorder during campaign

(CNN) - New behind-the-scenes details are emerging about Rick Perry's presidential campaign, one that started strong but shriveled after a series of surprising gaffes and misstatements.

A spokesperson with Perry's office confirmed an account in a new book that the Texas governor discovered he had "mild sleep apnea" during his White House bid.

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Perry, who entered the race late in August 2011, drew criticism for not taking his presidential run seriously because of his mistakes on the campaign trail. The most memorable moment, perhaps, came in a Michigan debate in November, when Perry failed to remember the third federal agency he had proposed eliminating. He named two, but could not come up with the third, even after appearing to consult notes.

"I would do away with the Education, the, uh, Commerce, and, let's see. I can't," Perry said, after struggling to come up with the name for 53 seconds. "The third one I can't. Sorry. Oops."

Some attributed the mental lapse, as well as a candid and comedic New Hampshire speech days earlier, to painkillers after Perry underwent back surgery in the summer of 2011. Perry's team maintained the governor discontinued use of the medicine prior to the start of his campaign.

A Perry spokesperson said the governor, however, found out he had a sleep condition.

"The Governor's July 2011 back surgery and his late entry into the presidential race presented obstacles during his campaign. Gov. Perry was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea during the campaign and was treated with a breathing machine for a few weeks," the spokeswoman said in a statement Sunday.

"Once the governor's back recovered sufficiently to return to his regular exercise routine, the apnea issue was resolved and no further treatment was necessary."

Perry's sleep problems were first reported in a new book, "Oops," by Texas Tribune reporter Jay Root.

"After conducting overnight tests on Perry, they produced a rather startling diagnosis: He had sleep apnea, and it had gone undetected for years, probably decades," Root writes, according to an excerpt of the book posted on the Texas Tribune website.

The ailment, Root continues, affects one in 10 men worldwide and "causes loud snoring and temporary lapses in breathing that disrupt normal sleep." Doctors prescribed a breathing machine to help alleviate symptoms, and Perry, an exercise junkie, soon got back to normal once he was able to work out again.

"The way he told it later, all that rigorous physical activity over the year had kept his sleep apnea in check," Root writes. "Then back surgery he underwent in July 2011 sidelined him, kept him out of the gym, and he went from light sleeper to insomniac."

Filed under: 2012 • Rick Perry
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Name

    Sleep disorder? More like human disorder. What a lame excuse.

    September 23, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    I think Mitt Robme has Drunk-disorder too.... Congratulations to GOP thugs inour nation. Keep up the good work.

    September 23, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. vegwell

    That is a goofy and lame excuse. If the exercise was keeping him from having apnea episodes, then how could it be said that he had it, and it had gone undiagnosed for years? I don't believe you can have sleep apnea without symptoms....and, mild sleep apnea is unlikely to cause the kind of memory lapses that Perry had. And, if he was being treated with a CPAP, the sleep problems should have improved quite a bit.

    September 23, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    Hey Guv - Lies, Drugs and alcohol don't mix. Not even in TX.

    September 23, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  5. bp

    And so the Perry reputation rehab effort begins. He'll be using this excuse for the next few years in the buildup to 2016.

    September 23, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. szinda

    Wow, what a lame excuse.....seriously, sleep apnea made you forget one of three major government agencies you would eliminate? As a Texan I'm ashamed to have Perry as my governor. He's just a pretty boy that gives good speeches in front of a teleprompter.

    September 23, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    So does this mean Perry would never have gotten a "clean bill of health" as a presidential candidate because I'm clearly not understanding the meaning behind reporting any of this.

    September 23, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  8. kathy

    I was diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea two years ago. Keep using your "cpap" breathing machine. ResMed is an excellent brand. The machine is very quiet and would help the governor sleep like a baby. Sleep apnea does not go away. Untreated it robs you of normal sleep and it is dangerous. And most people don't hear themselves snoring and don't even know they have it. In obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type the patient may stop breathing 50 times a minute all night. Most people are diagnosed because someone hears them snortling at night. It has to be taken seriously as it may cause damage even possibly dementia over a long. period. Also sleep apnea untreated causes a person to pile up fatigue. Before I was diagnosed, I never remembered my dreams and couldn't remember the last time I had a dream. This is not an uncommon condition. In fact it is quite big now in medicine. My mother became ill ten years ago. She lived alone. I would go pick her up and she would be terribly tired, unable to think, dress properly, spell, write, etc. But as I look back now she may have just suffered sleep apnea. She saw a well known geriontologist at the Cleveland Clinic every three months for a few years. I went to every one of her doctor's appointments. But she was never tested for sleep apnea. The subject never came up. They just didn't t recognize it in 2003. Well they do now.I watched Governor Perry during the primaries and empathized with his helplessness when his mind went blank. I hope the Governor gets used to using his mask and machine. He'll dream, and feel that he slept like a baby. Most primary care doctors can help with this.

    September 23, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  9. fernace

    Wll isn't it nice that Guv'nah Goodhair gets such great medical attention for his conditions! This is the man who's policies has trunced the education budget & has made it next to impossible for women to get affordable care in Texas! I got no love for him or his 1% policies! He's not my governor!! Obama Nov.6!!

    September 23, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  10. Indy

    In other news Rick Perry struggled with reality during his campaign and was nowhere close to prime time material

    September 23, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  11. vatoloke

    I'd have a "sleep disorder" too if I had some big debates to take part in and I didn't have it together as was pretty much obvious. Actually, it was painful to watch. "Ooops!"

    September 23, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  12. Slightly Left of Center

    Perry struggled with sleep disorder during campaign.

    Yeah...that's not the only 'disorder' he struggled with. Is stupidity a disorder?

    September 23, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  13. works4me

    I believe that he suffered from ignorance... not a sleep disorder. They have prescriptions for sleep disorders. They don't have any for stupidity or racism.

    September 23, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  14. gango

    Sleep apnea (called "snoring" when a democrat does it) is not the reason the Governor could nor recall the agencies he would do away with. Conservative like to parrot sound bites (like, I'll cut unemployment in half" or "I'll give everyone a $10,000 tax break and still balance the budget" or "I'll shut down three executive branch agencies") and when you call them on it, they realize they have no idea how they reached the conclusions they have.

    September 23, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  15. Pander Bear

    Sleep Apnea does not explain the incredible level of stupid that Rick Perry occupies.

    September 23, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  16. Thomas

    All I know is I sleep better knowing he will never be President !t

    September 23, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  17. KC

    Sleep Disorder I thought it was a hangover I was seeing

    September 23, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  18. bb

    So now we know that Rick Perry ran a lousy campaign due to sleep apnea...what's Romney's excuse?

    September 23, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. Steve

    Sleep disorder is a very serious medical condition. I sympathize with Perry, but that wouldn't change my opinion of him as a potential president candidate.

    September 23, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  20. MaryM

    Nobody care Perry, you are a joke

    September 23, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  21. doug the slug

    He'd still be dumb if he had a steady 8 hours for a month.

    September 23, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  22. onlyfacts

    So is that what brought on his, heliesabouteverythingpsychosis?

    September 23, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  23. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Ya think it may have something to do with his alchoholism and drug dependency?

    September 23, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  24. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    That can't be his only problem. I would hope that Perry is towards the bottom end of the intelligence of Texas. Otherwise we are in serious trouble with a state like Texas having people of questionable intelligence leading. We can't have that as good example.

    September 23, 2012 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  25. The Choobs

    As a sleep apnea sufferer from the other side of the aisle, I completely sympathize with Perry and wish him many sleep-filled nights with no oxygen deprivation. The results of apnea can be seriously and significantly debilitating, and indeed can be an explanation for memory loss and inarticulate communication. (Of course, being rather uneducated and politically naive speaks for some of Perry's gaffes too...but I digress...)

    September 23, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
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