Over the past several days, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has claimed that President Obama called Americans “lazy.” And then he sharpened the attack, suggesting that Mr. Obama grew up a child of privilege.
Since he began sliding in the polls last month, Mr. Perry has been increasingly trying to portray himself as the outsider and anti-Washington candidate, attacking the Internal Revenue Service, federal airport security officials and federal judges. He often highlights his own modest personal background, and he has occasionally contrasted it with his rival Mitt Romney’s wealthier upbringing, even suggesting that Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was born holding “four aces.”
As Mr. Perry has painted himself as the cure for Washington’s ills, however, some his recent attacks have drifted into the realm of falsehood, repeating some of the themes of past critiques suggesting that Mr. Obama is elitist.
Most notably, in a new television commercial released Wednesday, he attacks Mr. Obama for believing “that Americans are lazy.” Mr. Perry says in the ad: “That’s pathetic. It’s time to clean house in Washington.”
The advertisement begins with a clip of Mr. Obama stating, “We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades.”
But Mr. Obama’s statement was not about “Americans” generally, but about the country’s efforts to attract foreign investment. It came in response to a question put to him at a conference last weekend by W. James McNerney Jr., chief executive of Boeing, who had asked him how foreign investors looked at the United States.
Mr. Obama replied that the United States had been complacent in luring foreign investors: “There are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.”
“But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades,” he said. “We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here — and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.”
Mr. Perry was not the only Republican contender who sought to capitalize on the line: Mr. Romney also implied that Mr. Obama was referring to Americans generally, telling a South Carolina audience on Tuesday that the president “said that Americans are lazy. I don’t think that describes America.”
Mr. Perry, however, took things one step further on Wednesday night during an interview on Fox News. A Fox host, Sean Hannity, showed the new ad and asked the governor, “What does it reveal to you about his mind-set and his thinking?”
Speaking about Mr. Obama, Mr. Perry replied: “It reveals to me that he grew up in a privileged way. You know, he never had to really work for anything. He never had to go through what Americans are going through.”
Mr. Obama, whose background could be considered no better off than middle class, was raised partly by a single mother who at times, he has said, was on food stamps. He also achieved the pinnacle of legal education, winning election as president of the Harvard Law Review.
The attacks on Mr. Obama come as Mr. Perry enters a more aggressive phase of his campaign in terms of ad strategy. Up to now, his ads have mainly focused on biographical themes with positive messages. But with the Iowa caucuses less than seven weeks away, the campaign is shifting to a more pointed tone.
A spokesman for Governor Perry did not respond to a message seeking comment.