Former Energy Secretary and Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday attempted to wade into the state’s school mask wars by promoting a product that he has a financial stake in as more schools implement mandates that buck Gov. Greg Abbot’s (R) ban.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Perry held a nearly hour-long press conference at the Texas Capitol on Monday that acted as a sales pitch to Republican state leaders. Perry tried convincing them to buy a brand of air filtration products from a company — Houston-based Integrated Viral Protection — that he claims he has “a part” in.
Perry had an evasive response when pressed on how much “a part” in the company means.
“Well, that’s none of your business. I’m not a public official anymore,” the former energy secretary said, according to the Chronicle.
As part of his pitch to state leaders, Perry argued that the special filtration system he is hawking — which supposedly has been tested in schools and is utilized in the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston — can be an alternative to mask-wearing in schools.
“I appreciate the politics that’s being played out there but this is about getting our kids back in school,” Perry said, according to the Chronicle. “Allowing them to have that interaction without masks on their face so they can see those reflections. They learn at a very early age those facial contortions — the smiles, the frowns — so it’s very important that we don’t send a message every day: ‘You’ve got to have a mask on if you’re going to go to our schools.’”
Perry reportedly denied that he is an anti-masker, but that parents should have the option to opt their children out of school mask mandates.
“I’m not anti-mask,” Perry said, according to the Chronicle. “I happen to think that a parent should have the right to decide whether their child wears a mask or not.”
The Chronicle reported that Perry claimed he’s been in talks with Abbott as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — another Republican governor whose efforts to pressure school districts into reversing their mask mandates are continuing to backfire — to shill the product he has a financial stake in.
Last week, the Texas Supreme Court dealt another blow to Abbott’s school mask mandate ban amid a slew of lawsuits and restraining orders by temporarily giving local officials the green light to maintain their mandates.
Abbott’s order faces a federal lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Texas, which claims that his ban violates anti-discrimination law.
In updated public health guidance issued last week, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) noted that Abbott’s order banning school mask mandates isn’t being enforced “as the result of ongoing litigation.”
“Further guidance will be made available after the court issues are resolved,” TEA’s updated guidance says.
Fort Worth and Paris Independent School Districts also found a creative workaround on Abbott’s ban: both districts amended their student handbooks to include a dress code requiring masks. It is currently unclear whether Abbott’s office will take legal action against the Fort Worth and Paris school districts.