One of the most powerful Republicans in Texas, House Speaker Joe Straus, said Friday that Gov. Rick Perry’s controversial remarks about Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis were inappropriate and damaging to the GOP brand.
Straus, briefly interviewed by The Texas Tribune as he was leaving the Texas Capitol for his home in San Antonio, said Perry's comments were not helpful to Republicans because they centered on Davis in personal terms and veered away from the conversation about abortion policy.
“Disagreements over policy are important and they’re healthy, but when he crosses the line into the personal, then he damages himself and he damages the Republican Party,” Straus said.
Straus said the abortion legislation Davis helped kill with an 11-hour filibuster had “strong support in the House and will continue to” in a newly called special session.
“Even some Democrats voted for it,” Straus said.
“I think now it’s our responsibility to have a civil discourse and move through this process with a respect for the rules and respect for one another,” he added.
Republicans have been expressing concerns privately that Perry’s comments are giving fuel to Democrats who say the GOP has declared a “war on women.” With his remarks Friday morning, Straus has taken those concerns public.
Perry spokesman Josh Havens said Perry's comment about Davis "speaks for itself as a compliment to the senator being a living example of why every child, no matter their circumstances, deserves a chance at life."
"The issue of abortion is a passionate one for everyone on both sides of the aisle, and the governor will continue to fight for the sanctity of life in a civil manner," Havens said.
Perry’s reference to Davis came during a speech Thursday to the National Right to Life convention in Dallas. His remarks sparked a news frenzy and have given the down-and-out Texas Democrats rare national media attention.
Perry said Davis, a teenage mother who rose from a trailer park to Harvard Law School and then the state Senate, should look to her background for inspiration in the debate on abortion rights.
“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.
Perry returned to that theme in an interview on the Laura Ingraham radio show on Friday, saying he was “sad that she does not understand that every life is precious, certainly her own.”
Davis appeared on MSNBC earlier Friday morning to say Perry's comment "demeans the office that he holds."