"Group Claims Video Shows Davis Backers Mocking Abbott's Disability" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
A conservative group is accusing supporters of state Sen. Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial bid and Battleground Texas of mocking Attorney General Greg Abbott’s disability and encouraging voter fraud.
The video released Thursday by Project Veritas purports to show footage from a meeting of Battleground Texas volunteers and another from a meeting of an Austin Democratic group. Shortly after its release, Davis, who was not in attendance at the meetings featured in the video, released a statement calling the language in it "abhorrent."
"Greg Abbott has persevered through great personal challenge to raise a family, have a productive career, and for that he deserves our respect," she said.
During a meeting of a group identified in the video as the Austin NxNW Democrats Club, an unidentified person who calls herself “an old woman” who wanted to comment about the race, describes Abbott as “not good looking, he doesn’t speak very well, he doesn’t have a good personality and he’s in a wheelchair.” Paul Labuda, president of the Austin NxNW Democrats, said in an email that he had no comment on the video.
Yet the scene appears to have been the work of some creative audio splicing. No one laughs after that comment at the 2:47 mark in the raw footage version, but in the edited version, the comment appears to provoke derisive laughter.
Also in the video, a person at a gathering identified as a Battleground Texas meeting asks about forging her husband's signature on an absentee ballot. A woman in the video can be seen covering her ears and later saying, “People do that all the time.” Another person in the room is heard saying, “I don’t think it’s legal but I didn’t hear you say that.”
In a statement, Abbott said the "content of the video denigrating the disabled is unworthy of our great state."
"Despite the distraction, I will continue my efforts to help all Texans rise in life and achieve their dreams," he said. "I will be a governor who fights for for all Texans – for children, small business owners, families, and entrepreneurs – a Texas that includes all."
It is not clear in the video if the attendees know they are being recorded. Project Veritas, founded by conservative activist James O'Keefe, has a history of releasing secretly recorded videos aimed at showing liberals in hypocritical or embarrassing situations. In the past, the group has been accused of taking secretly recorded comments out of context.
Bo Delp, Davis' communications director, called the video one of O'Keefe's "trademark deceptive videos."
"O’Keefe is trying to create the impression that Wendy Davis attended this meeting and condones the language in this video," he said in a statement.
Battleground Texas spokesman Ellis Brachman said the video "says a lot more about Republicans than Battleground Texas: If they're desperate enough to use a well-known liar who has been repeatedly discredited by journalists, legal experts, and his own party to falsely attack us, they must be scared that voters are going to have a real choice at the ballot box this November.”
The video was identified as "the first video in a series to follow," according to a release from Project Veritas.
Jay Root contributed to this report.
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