Dewhurst Versus the First Amendment

Lite guv briefly blames press for SB5 crowd

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst:
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: "Deep and abiding respect" for Texas press corps (unless he wants them arrested) (Photo by Jana Birchum)

In the collective mind of the GOP, who were the people who shouted down the backdoor abortion ban in Senate Bill 5? First, it was feminazis. Then it was communists. Then Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst blamed (for a few brief hours) the Texas legislative press corps.

This gem came about yesterday when the Dew called in to the Ed Morrissey Show: He's one of the talking heads on Hot Air, the right wing noise machine founded by Michelle Malkin. Dew was on air to blame everyone but himself for the failure of SB 5. He hit all the regular targets (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the ineptitude of the House) before Morrissey set some new bait. He noted that Jeff Zeleny of ABC News had Tweeted a picture of Davis' famous sneakers on top of a stack of papers, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Sure sign to Morrissey that there's a media conspiracy going on. He asked Dewhurst, "Do you think the media would be taking the same tack if, say, the Tea Party had done what happened earlier this week to block, say, a tax increase?"

"Absolutely not," said Dewhurst, before making this eye-rolling allegation:

"We have reports, and I have my staff taking a look at the video, the Internet video that we keep, we store, on the proceedings of that evening, and if I find, as I've been told, examples of the media waving and trying to inflame the crowd, incite them in the direction of a riot, I'm going to take action against them. That is wrong. That is inciting a riot. And we have a provions that rules that if people do not deport themselves with decorum and they're not resepctful of the legislative process, one of our rules says we can imprison them for 48 hours."

This would all seem vaguely farcical, if the right wasn't already trying to target the press. For example, conservative think tank Empower Texans was taking baseless pot shots at Erica Grieder of Texas Monthly for alleged bias when she Tweeted "If asked to choose between decorum and my fellow Texans, I will choose Texans every time, on ANY issue."


Full disclaimer: I was on the floor during the debate and personally pointed to the gallery twice. The first time was to point out to SB5 supporter Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, where one little old lady was being pulled out of her chair at the eastern end of the gallery by DPS troopers (Hughes looked appalled by what was happening to her). The second time was to show Chronicle photographer Jana Birchum where to take pictures as septuagenarian Martha Northington was being arrested, cuffed and manhandled out of the chamber.

Of course, as soon as he was off the phone and not in full-on primary pander mode, Dewhurst may have quickly realized that the Legislative press corps may have a few questions about this. Cue the revered Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News pondering on Twitter "Will Lt Gov David Dewhurst have Texas media arrested?"

(Cue also a moment of dry comedy from Grieder, who Tweeted that she would be on MSNBC this morning "if I'm not in the pokey.")

Now, remember: Gov. Rick Perry has called another special session for Monday, July 1 at 10am. At that moment, Dewhurst was going to have to face the very Capitol press corps (who have to go through a verified application process to get floor privileges) that he had just accused of starting a riot. Time for some furious back pedaling, as Dewhurst's spokesman Travis Considine told the Texas Tribune that "Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has a deep and abiding respect for the Texas press corps" and that, upon reviewing the tapes, "he is thankful to learn that the media conducted themselves in a manner consistent with the decorum of the Senate chamber."

However, Dewhurst's press allegation was not the only eyebrow-raising moment in his Morrissey interview. First he claimed it was an "an unruly mob from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU that just went wild and drowned out a critical 25 minutes, 30 minutes of our hearing" (only out on the duration by about 100%, but good enough). Dewhurst then claimed that "we broke the filibuster about 10 o'clock and the place went wild" (10pm Pacific time, maybe); that "we had people throwing things down on us from the gallery" (an outright untruth) and that he "still got the bill passed, but I didn't get it signed before midnight" (again, simply not true, and there are many people currently demanding an investigation into the switching of time stamps).

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83rd Legislature, Abortion, Reproductive Rights, Senate Bill 5, David Dewhurst, Wendy Davis, SB5, Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Erica Grieder, Texas Tribune, Abortion Rights

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