Actor and producer Tyler Perry talks to a large crowd gathered for the Candle In The Dark Gala, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Morehouse College in Atlanta Ga February 18, 2017. Perry was awarded the Bennie and Candle award during the gala. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

The Jolt: Tyler Perry, an Atlanta debate, and the ‘heartbeat’ law

There is a tactic in politics known as “inoculation,” which acts something like the real immunization process.

A small statement or policy shift is conceded -- in order to prevent or offset a more powerful assault under more highly charged conditions.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that this applies to movie mogul Tyler Perry, who broke his long silence on Georgia’s anti-abortion law in September -- just weeks before the decision (yet to be formally announced) to make his 330-acre studio the site of Democratic presidential debate No. 5 on Nov. 20. 

So far as we can tell, intensive lobbying by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and other Democrats began in late July, concurrent with the two-day debate in Detroit.

On Sept. 25, in a Los Angeles interview with the Associated Press, Perry broke a long silence on HB 481, the anti-abortion “heartbeat” law that would ban most abortions in Georgia. 

Perry made two points. First, though other industry voices have called for a boycott, Perry said he wouldn’t abandon Georgia because of the legislation:

"Atlanta has been the dream. It has been the promised land," he said. "So when I got here, this whole state and city has been amazing to me and I wouldn't trade that for anything. Also, I put $250 million in the ground here and in the studio. So when you have a quarter of a billion dollars sat down in the ground, you can't just up and leave."

...Perry said the workers who helped Georgia's thriving television and film industry could have an impact in the 2022 governor's election.

"What I know about this industry is that there are 94,000-plus or 98,000 people who are in this industry and who are benefiting from it greatly," he said. "And that's a lot of votes. I'm in a wait and see moment right now. But that's a lot of votes. That's a lot of votes that can determine an election."

Secondly, when pressed, Perry put himself on record in opposition to House Bill 481, the “heartbeat” measure:

"I don't believe any man should be able to tell a woman what she can do with her body or reproductive organs," he said.

As our AJC colleague Rodney Ho pointed out months ago, Perry’s silence was notable simply because he’s the most prominent Atlanta-based figure in the movie business, having transformed himself from a struggling playwright living out of his car in his twenties to an actor, director, developer and film mogul with ties to the Hollywood elite.

Only a few weeks ago, Ho asked Perry why he had waited until September to make his position known earlier this year, when the measure was being debated:

“I just didn’t feel it was time to talk about it,” he said. “Sometimes you have to take a step back, calm down, wait a minute and see what happens and see how this goes.”

There may have been another reason for his reluctance. 

Gov. Brian Kemp, who championed the anti-abortion law, has the authority to tap several members of the state board that oversees the remaining 145 acres of Fort McPherson. And Perry has previously expressed interest in buying up that land.

But one thing is nearly certain: Without that condemnation of HB 481 in September, Democrats would have been hard put to make one of Perry’s stages the one-day centerpiece of their presidential campaign.

October 5, 2019 Atlanta - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was on hand for the opening of Tyler Perry Studios Saturday, October 5, 2019 in Atlanta. Perry acquired the property of Fort McPherson to build a movie studio on 330 acres of land. (Ryon Horne / Ryon.Horne@ajc.com)
Photo: Ryon Horne

**

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson will not hold his Resurgent Gathering next year, saying he’s worried that he could lose sponsors or speakers for criticizing President Donald Trump. 

“I don't want to be held hostage to my own event. I don't want to put any speaker or sponsor in an awkward position. And I want to say what I think without having to wonder if I might piss off someone who can undermine the conference,” the WSB Radio host wrote in a series of Tweets. 

“So I'm canceling the Resurgent Gathering. It'll do my stress levels good and not risk me having to compromise either the conference or my conscience. It may well be the end of the Resurgent as the conference is our revenue generator.”

He said instead he will focus on growing his new syndicated radio show, which partly focuses on Georgia politics. 

“In the past, I could criticize a Bush, a McCain, or a Romney and no Republicans really complained,” he wrote. “But things have gotten so tribal now, it doesn't matter how often you say you'll vote for Trump, if you criticize him or his policies at all, you're a traitor.”

The last Resurgent Gathering earlier this year attracted Vice President Mike Pence to Georgia as well as leading state figures. 

But it was Erickson’s previous group, RedState, that generated more headlines. In 2015, the RedState Gathering in Atlanta drew most of the Republican presidential contenders - with the notable exception of Trump, who was disinvited after his debate run-in with then-Fox host Megyn Kelly.

WSB Radio shares the same Cox corporate owner as the AJC. The radio unit is in the process of being sold to a private equity firm.

***

Every morning, our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree sends out a note, detailing what D.C. story will matter that day. This New York Times piece is his pick for Tuesday:

A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement.

***

As hardly anyone could miss, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., was at Donald Trump’s side at Nationals Park on Sunday when a Game 5 crowd booed the box-seated Trump. “It just shows how out of touch this town is," Perdue told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Monday. "They have no idea how this president got elected."

When asked whether he thought the Senate would vote to remove his ally President Trump from office should he be impeached by the House, the Georgia senator replied, “Not a chance in hell.”

"I've seen the evidence. There's nothing that rises to the level of impeachment,” Perdue said. “This is a clear example of the continued obstructionism to try to undo a duly elected president from 2016."

Perdue was sharply critical of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that the House would vote Thursday on a resolution that “affirms the ongoing, existing” impeachment investigation." “I think by her calling for this vote she's admitting that the process has been unfair to the president,” he said. 

***

Goal posts moved: Turns out a vote on Thursday that gives formal U.S. House recognition to the impeachment inquiry wasn’t want Republicans wanted after all. From the Facebook page of U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe:

The ship has already sailed on having a fair and transparent process. Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff poisoned the well on day one. The time for a vote was a MONTH ago! This is like the referee showing up halfway into a football game.

Ditto U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee:

“Thank you, @SpeakerPelosi, for finally acknowledging the fact that you attempted to deceive the American people into thinking you were conducting a fair impeachment inquiry. Just one problem: It’s impossible to undo 35 days of @RepAdamSchiff's secrecy, leaks, and innuendo.”

***

Georgia Democrats, meanwhile, are defending Pelosi’s move. "I think the rulings that we have received in court affirm the fact that there's no requirement that we take a vote, but it's just a ratcheting up of what we're doing in the eyes of the public," said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia, a top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. "If we can create more acceptance of this process by going this route then that's fine with me."

Atlanta Democrat David Scott said a vote was the “clearest way of moving forward so that we're up here to speak for the people.”

***

In endorsement news, former Georgia congressman Buddy Darden publicly announced that he would back Democratic Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson’s campaign today. He is also a key supporter of state Sen. Zahra Karinshak’s bid for Georgia’s Seventh District.

*** 

A day at the races, followed by a night at the opera? The Senate Study Committee on Gaming and Para-Mutuel Wagering on Horse Racing and Growing Georgia’s Equine Industry meets this morning on state Capitol grounds. Here’s the agenda:

-- Call to Order by Chairman Brandon Beach

-- Dean Reeves (President, Georgia Horse Racing Coalition)

-- Senator Damon Thayer (Kentucky Senate Majority Leader)

-- Tom Mosley (Vice President, Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association)

-- Anna Ford (Thoroughbred Manager, New Vocations)

-- Dr. Jared Williams & Dr. Singen Elliot (UGA College of Veterinary Medicine)

-- Closing Comments by Chairman Beach

***

Several members of Congress from Georgia, all with lakes maintained by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in their districts, are claiming victory. From the Gainesville Times:

The Corps will hold off on permit fee increases to do a national review of shoreline management fees, according to a social media post from the Corps’ South Atlantic Division.

The increases, announced in June, would have gone into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and affected the Corps’ South Atlantic Division. Under the revised fee schedule, new dock or facility permits would have gone from $400 to $835, and re-issue permits would have increased from $175 to $835.

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