NYT, Politico and AP's National Site All Ignore Wendy Davis's Debate Meltdown

September 23rd, 2014 10:17 AM

The two major-party Texas gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott, debated Friday night. I knew it didn't go well for Davis, once a national media darling, when I searched on "Wendy Davis Abbott debate" (not in quotes) and found no coverage of the event at the Associated Press's national web site, the New York Times and the Politico.

Davis, trailing significantly in the polls, did not acquit herself well. Her most awful moment, seen in the video after the jump, came when she insisted that Abbott, currently Texas's Attorney General, should stop defending the state against an education funding lawsuit, when doing so would violate a law Davis herself supported. After the Republican pointed out that inconvenient fact, Davis lost it, ranting out of turn for a solid 15 seconds, talking over the debate's moderator as he tried to bring the proceedings back to order.

Davis's reference in the video is to a late-August ruling by State District Judge John Dietz. Dietz decided, in the AP's words, that "even though the Legislature pumped an extra $3 billion-plus into classrooms last summer the state still fails to provide adequate funding or distribute it fairly among school districts in wealthy and poor areas." The Dallas Morning News reported on August 29 that Abbott "has promised that the decision will be appealed." This apparently frustrated his Democratic challenger:

Transcript (Davis's rant and the moderator's words over which Davis spoke are presented separately; bolds are mine throughout this post):

(0:04 to 0:55)

WENDY DAVIS: Mr. Abbott, Judge Dietz has recently ruled against you and in favor of the schoolchildren of Texas, ruling that our schools are unconstitutionally underfunded. The only thing right now coming between our children and appropriate funding of their schools today is you. On behalf of the 5 million children of this state, will you agree tonight that you will drop your appeals, and allow our schools to be appropriately funded?

GREG ABBOTT: Senator Davis, there's actually another thing coming between me and settling that lawsuit, and that is a law that you voted for, passed in 2011, that removed from the Attorney General the ability to settle lawsuits just like this. ...

(1:31 to 2:00)

DAVIS: Mr. Abbott, attorney generals around this country, around this country, have stood up against their legislatures when they believe that they are wrong. And what you are doing in shortchanging our schoolchildren is wrong.

MODERATOR BRIAN WOLF: Senator Davis, Senator Davis, at the end of the program — Senator Davis, Senator Davis, we agreed to the rules beforehand. I appreciate you wanting to interject.

(after Davis finally stopped speaking)

Senator Davis, we do appreciate, we know that it's a lively discussion. At the end, we have our closing statement, and I encourage you to use that time to continue the discussion. These are rules we all agreed upon together. Okay?

Wolf did a nice job of persistently insisting that Davis was out of order, and of making it clear that he would continue to do so until she yielded.

If Abbott had pulled a similar disgraceful stunt on Davis, it would be national news. Abbott would be portrayed as having come unglued and perhaps even as a sexist if he had pointed his finger at her as she did at him.

Instead, as noted, the New York Times and Politico ignored the debate. The Associated Press considered it worthy of only regional coverage, but it seems that reporter Paul J. Weber may have prepared his report from his hotel room and skipped the event. That will be the subject of a separate post later today.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.