After telling a conservative publication on Friday that members of the Texas press corps may have helped incite the crowd that shouted down a vote on abortion restrictions Tuesday night, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s staff reviewed video of the events and announced on Saturday that there is no evidence the media provoked the crowd.
“After hearing several reports of members of the media encouraging the crowd, Gov. Dewhurst said he would look into the matter,” said Travis Considine, a spokesman for Dewhurst. “He’s had his staff review the tapes, and he is thankful to learn that the media conducted themselves in a manner consistent with the decorum of the Senate chamber.”
Considine added, “Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has a deep and abiding respect for the Texas press corps.”
On Friday, Dewhurst told the conservative online publication Hot Air that he would take action against members of the media if his staff found evidence that the media had helped incite what he called a “riot.”
“We have reports that members of the media on the floor, on the floor of the Senate, were looking up at the people in the gallery, waving their hands, trying to motivate them to yell more. If I find examples of that, proof certain on our video,” Dewhurst said, “I’m going to address this firmly.”
Dewhurst, who plans to run for re-election against a growing field of Republican candidates, has received criticism from conservatives in the aftermath of Tuesday's headline-grabbing filibuster. As the presiding officer of the Senate, many have blamed Dewhurst for allowing state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, to engage in a lengthy filibuster against Senate Bill 5, which would have banned abortion at 20 weeks gestation and increased restrictions on facilities where abortions are performed and doctors who perform them. The measure will come up again in a second special session.
"It was pretty clear to the world who was watching that it happened because of a lack of leadership," state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said on Thursday when he announced his plans to challenge Dewhurst as a candidate for lieutenant governor. "We allowed someone to stand on the floor for 12 hours and give one side of the story."
Reproductive rights advocates have dubbed the events on Tuesday night the “people’s filibuster,” as the cheering of hundreds inside the Senate gallery and hundreds more outside in the Capitol rotunda prevented the Senate from finishing a vote on Senate Bill 5 before the first special session ended at midnight.
Dewhurst said that he did not “lose control,” of the Senate proceedings, and blamed an “unruly mob,” for disrupting decorum and preventing the Senate from completing the vote before the midnight deadline.
Following in the footsteps of other Republican leaders in the state, Dewhurst also spoke on Saturday at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas.
“It’s an honor to be here with my fellow pro-life warriors,” he said at the convention. “I say pro-life warriors because we’re not exactly in a polite conversation with our opponents who don't believe in the sanctity of life.”
Gov. Rick Perry made national headlines while speaking at the convention Thursday when he said Davis did not learn from her own example as a single teenage mother who “managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate.”
“It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example: that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters,” he said.
In response, Davis said in a statement, "They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test."
With the national spotlight on Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat has alluded to running for statewide office in 2014. Despite the recent attention and influx of campaign cash from across the nation, Davis would still face an arduous campaign if she ran for statewide office in Texas. A Democrat has not held a statewide elected office in Texas since 1994.
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.