Wendy Davis Should Have Left Her Opponent’s Wheelchair Out of Her Attack Ad

By

Wendy Davis, the Democratic Texas politician who became a pro-choice icon when she filibustered an anti-abortion bill for 13 hours, is running for governor against current state attorney general (and Republican) Greg Abbott. Things aren’t looking great for Davis: With less than a month to go before the election, some polls show Abbott leading her by double digits. Now is as good a time as any for her campaign to release an aggressive attack ad, but the one posted to YouTube on Friday was, at best, in poor taste. 

Abbott has been confined to a wheelchair since 1984, when a falling tree left him paralyzed. He successfully sued the Houston homeowner responsible for the accident and ended up with several million dollars. Davis’s spot, titled “Justice,” opens with the story of her opponent’s injury and lawsuit — and a long shot of an empty wheelchair. The narrator then cites several cases where, as a Texas Supreme Court justice and attorney general, Abbott opposed people’s efforts to sue doctors, hospitals, and corporations, denying them the possibility of the kind of payout he received. “Abbott argued a woman whose leg was amputated was not disabled because she had an artificial limb,” the ad notes, among other things.

Abbott’s actions were indeed hypocritical, but the wheelchair image has already distracted viewers from that message by leaving Davis open to charges of criticizing someone based on a physical disability. After the Abbott campaign released a statement accusing Davis of “a disturbing lack of judgment,” Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas responded by saying that the ad raised “important questions that Texans have a right to know about … This is simply another example of how [Abbott] has done this. Seeking justice for himself, while fighting against others seeking justice for themselves.” 

Considering Davis has been subjected to a lot of viciously sexist and personal attacks, you’d think she would be extra careful to avoid the appearance of engaging in similar behavior — if only because she knows that it just galvanizes the other side.