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Rick Perry tours border with Fox's Van Susteren

By Meghan Ashford-Grooms May 26, 2011

Nearly three months after being invited by Gov. Rick Perry to visit the Lone Star State, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren took him up on his offer, meeting up with Perry in South Texas on May 24 to talk about border security — and his presidential prospects.

Dressed casually and seated in front of helicopters at a Texas Ranger mobile command center in Edinburg, Perry rehashed his call for the federal government to put "more boots on the ground" to protect Texans from Mexican cartel violence and other threats.

And the GOP governor touched on an issue we’ve dug into — the nationalities of the people who illegally cross into the country. Perry told Van Susteren that "they are from countries that have very close ties to al Qaeda, whether it's (Yemen) or Afghanistan, Pakistan, China. It is an absolute national disgrace."

Later in the same episode, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made a similar statement, saying that "something else that we need to come to grips with ... is these cartels are bringing across the border people who are coming from terroristic-based countries: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen."

Rewind: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a March 9 Senate hearing that during the first 19 months of the Obama administration, the Border Patrol arrested people from nations that "have been designated by the U.S. Department of State as state sponsors of terrorism."

Cornyn was correct that people from currently designated state sponsors of terrorism — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — have been arrested on the United States’ southern border. However, his statement earned a Half True because figures provided by Cornyn showed that 87 percent of the Border Patrol apprehensions of people from the "terrorism" nations took place far from the Mexico border, including the northern border with Canada and coastal areas of Puerto Rico, Florida, Louisiana and other Gulf states.

Back to Perry on Fox: After the live interview wrapped, Van Susteren aired a taped discussion with Perry inside the Ranger command center. In it, she asked Perry whether President Barack Obama had reached out to him during the president’s May 10 trip to Texas in which he gave a speech on immigration in El Paso before starring at Austin fundraisers.

Obama and Perry, who’s lately been touted by Rush Limbaugh and others as a possible late-breaking 2012 presidential aspirant, did not greet each other that day. Perry told Van Susteren that Obama "had offered us to meet on the tarmac at the airport in El Paso" but that he had declined because he didn’t want to travel hundreds of miles "for a 10-minute conversation that ... was not going to be substantive."

Perry then said he offered to meet with Obama in Austin — "as much time as he would like to have at any venue" — but the president declined.

On the day of Obama’s Texas swing, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney was asked by a reporter why the president was not meeting with Perry. Carney replied: "Governor Perry turned down our invitation to meet the president at the airport." We rated that statement Mostly True because Carney’s response implied that Perry had flat refused to meet when Perry’s office had floated the alternative of meeting in Austin.

On May 25, Van Susteren aired another Perry interview segment, this one shot in a helicopter as the two looked over the border and the fence between the United States and Mexico.

After Perry again criticized the federal government’s border security efforts, Van Susteren asked him why he has said he doesn’t want to run for president considering his disappointment with the federal handling of border and other issues.

Perry said he is focused on the legislative session, which ends May 30. "My hope is that that person will come forward that can win the presidency that we can all get behind," he said. Van Susteren then asked Perry if he was "tempted" to run. His response: "Oh, I can’t say I’m not tempted, but the fact is this isn’t something that I want to do."

We’ll be watching to see if Perry changes his mind: One of the governor’s campaign promises that we are tracking on our Perry-O-Meter is that he won’t run for president. In April 2010, Perry told the Texas Tribune for an interview in Newsweek magazine that he would not consider seeking the nation’s highest office.

"Under any circumstances?" editor Evan Smith asked. Perry’s response: "That’s correct."

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Rick Perry tours border with Fox's Van Susteren