Even MSNBC Won’t Support Controversial Wendy Davis Wheelchair Ad

Last week, Wendy Davis, the Democratic Party candidate for governor of Texas, aired a controversial ad attacking her opponent, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, depicting him as an empty wheelchair who had turned his back on disabled people in Texas. 

Despite MSNBC doing everything it could to promote Ms. Davis, her latest attack ad appeared indefensible for the “Lean Forward” network. On Sunday morning, an entire panel on Up w/ Steve Kornacki condemned the Davis ad, with liberal columnist Michael Tomasky declaring “this makes liberals squirm in their chairs.” 

After running a clip of the ad, co-host Steve Kornacki asked his panel to “make the case that this was a good ad” to which not a single person was willing to do. 

As the segment progressed, MSNBC.com writer Suzy Khimm seemed perplexed at Davis and didn’t think it would even help the Democratic Party base in Texas: 

But I'm trying to figure out how this is appealing to her base even if you're talking about her base. I mean, I guess there's the bottom line issue which she's trying in her way to illustrate which is I guess this hypocrisy that she believes that her opponent has limited the ability of victims like himself to sue. But the way in which the ad was portrayed-- the image of the wheelchair just to start out with, that, I mean, even if you agreed with her in principle, it can't help but make it seem like—

As the segment concluded, the MSNBC panel predictably lamented that the ad could hurt Davis’ political future, as she looks poised to lose her bid for governor of Texas: 

MICHAEL TOMASKY: And she should have given more thought, I think, to the reputation she had, even if she was going to lose by 18 points or whatever it is. That event that she had when she did that filibuster, she so galvanized liberals across the country and had such respect and affection from liberals that she jeopardizes probably, to some extent, by doing this.

SUZY KHIMM: Yeah, this is just, if she wants to run for office again, this is definitely going to follow her and it's the kind of Hail Mary pass that not only might not work but could have consequences for her own future political career.

While MSNBC has eagerly championed Davis’ abortion filibuster, it is refreshing to see that the “Lean Forward” network was willing to put aside its love of the Texas Democrat and actually condemn her negative attack ad against Republican Greg Abbott. 

See relevant transcript below.  

MSNBC

Up w/ Steve Kornacki 

October 12, 2014

STEVE KORNACKI: Until then, moving on to some political news in the state of Texas, something that made a lot of waves this week. A new ad out from Democratic candidate for governor Wendy Davis in Texas is grabbing attention nationwide. This is how she attacks wheelchair bound Attorney General Greg Abbott, her Republican opponent. He was paralyzed in an accident 30 years ago. This is her new ad. 

UNKNOWN VOICE: A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then, he's spent his career working against other victims. Abbott argued a woman's whose leg was amputated was not disabled because she had an artificial limb. He ruled against a rape victim who sued a corporation for failing to do a background check on a sexual predator. 

KORNACKI: Now, Abbott responded to the ad saying, “It's her choice if she wants to attack a guy in a wheelchair. I don't think it's going to sell too well.” So look, first we can stipulate. Wendy Davis has been running behind in this race all year and this is the textbook definition of a Hail Mary political ad. They are trying to get all sorts of free attention, stir up controversy. They feel they have nothing to lose. But this obviously has generated a lot of conversation. Anybody here think -- want to make the case that this was a good ad? 

MICHAEL TOMASKY: No. 

TOM DAVIS: Well you know what, it does show the contrast. She's trying to reach her base on this kind of issue and there are no rules anymore. If you look at political ads, if you look at what the newspapers uncover, there’s no right to anything anymore in terms of victims and we’ll see how it plays. 

SUZY KHIMM: But I'm trying to figure out how this is appealing to her base even if you're talking about her base. I mean, I guess there's the bottom line issue which she's trying in her way to illustrate which is I guess this hypocrisy that she believes that her opponent has limited the ability of victims like himself to sue. But the way in which the ad was portrayed-- the image of the wheelchair just to start out with, that, I mean, even if you agreed with her in principle, it can't help but make it seem like—

KORNACKI: That does seem like the problem there. You could make a hypocrisy argument but you don’t need a giant picture-

TOMASKY: If she stood up in a debate and gingerly tried to lay all of this out just with words, she could get away with that. But it's this image of the wheelchair and that music. And I do think you make a good point about her--I don't see how this even helps with the base. 

KHIMM: I don’t see it at all. 

TOMASKY: This makes liberals squirm in their chairs. And she should have given more thought, I think, to the reputation she had, even if she was going to lose by 18 points or whatever it is. That event that she had when she did that filibuster, she so galvanized liberals across the country and had such respect and affection from liberals that she jeopardizes probably, to some extent, by doing this.

KHIMM: Yeah, this is just, if she wants to run for office again, this is definitely going to follow her and it's the kind of Hail Mary pass that not only might not work but could have consequences for her own future political career.

KORNACKI: See, and that was it. She was going to be and she started out sort of as the Democratic star of 2014. And it was as you say; she didn’t have to win this year. She could maybe run in 2018 there might be another office there. And yes, obviously the campaign, if you look at the polls she’s down 10, 12 points, something like that. It does raise the question; I'm wondering who are the Democratic stars? Every election ends up producing one. And I’m wondering if you guys are seeing anybody out there? You know the name that I always hear is you know Cory Booker in New Jersey, he’s going to win reelection this year to the U.S. Senate. Are there other stars you’re seeing out there who have sort of emerged in the campaign this year? 

 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.