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‘Christianist’ US Presidential candidate faces fire over viral YouTube ad

In just over a day of being online, an advertisement — which has gone viral — of Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry has led to him facing staunch and sustained criticism online.

In the 30 second ad, airing in the key battleground state of Iowa, a smiling Perry, the current governor of Texas, proudly declares his faith and promises to end what he terms “Obama’s war on religion”.

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.

While the Perry campaign was mindful enough to remove commenting abilities on the video, it failed to remember to disable the “like” and “dislike” option. At the time of writing, in a clear sign of sentiment for the video, 9051 people “liked” it compared to the 380 737 who had “disliked” it, toppling Rebecca Black’s “Friday” as YouTube’s most disliked video.

There has also been a campaign to get the ad removed off of YouTube on the grounds it flouts the video-sharing services Terms of Use.

On social networks, Perry, who once led the pack of (now) nine Republicans hoping to take the US Presidency from Barack Obama in 2012, has quickly been called out for the not-so-latent homophobia and “Christianist” pandering in the ad simply titled “Strong”.

On Reddit, two threads with the video made it onto the home page of the site. With one titled, “Rick Perry’s new Commercial, and he’s not ashamed to admit that he is a Christian” and the other, “Rick Perry’s shockingly bigoted campaign video. Titled ‘Strong’. Uh …huh,” both were strongly opposed to it.

Some have even taken to going to Perry’s Facebook page and leaving comments there. In the link to the video on the page — shared more than 600 times — a heated discussion totalling more than 2000 comments has broken out between Perry supporters and those blasting the ad as “horrendous” and “abbhorent”.

Prominent gay blogs have also featured the video. “Rick Perry has spent this entire week attacking gays, because, well, when you’re down in the polls that’s just what you do. Need attention? Pick on gays. Down in the polls? Pick on gays. Sagging career? Pick on gays. Failed marriage? Pick on gays,” David Badash wrote for The New Civil Rights Movement.

While anger has been expressed, some have been quick to see the humour in the situation.

Publisher of US political site, PoliticalWire, quickly noted the irony of Perry appearing in the same jacket as Heath Ledger’s character in the Academy award winning “BrokeBack Mountain”.

Comedy hub, The Second City Network, which has produced a string of viral YouTube videos, was quick to post a spoof of the ad ending with the line, “I’m a godless heathen and I approve this message”.

This is not the first time Perry, whom the New York Times describes as having “sunk to second-tier status”, has gone viral in a way that he may not wish to.

In August of this year, a video of a campaign speech (full version and edited version) he gave went viral with many wondering whether he was drunk.

Interviewed on CNN Perry has defended the video saying that “I’m very comfortable with that ad,” before attacking Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for making impassioned pleas for the recognition and respecting of the human right of gay people across the world.

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