Conservative agent provocateur James O'Keefe's latest undercover video sting seemed to feed the narrative that Democrats just go around constantly making fun of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's wheelchair. This is what O'Keefe is good at: Using hidden cameras to film targets, then editing the hell out of the footage to make it sound like they're saying something they're actually not. He brought down ACORN with one of these, though the premise didn't withstand scrutiny of his raw footage. Same with his sting of an NPR fundraiser. Both resulted in knee-jerk consequences for the subjects, but were eventually found to be misleading at best.
So it is with the video that seems to Battleground Texas volunteers and Wendy Davis supporters mocking Abbott's wheelchair, or his inability to stand.
First, a "Project Veritas investigator," going by the name "Wendy Johnson," enters the living room of Dallas attorney Lisa Wortham's Lewisville home. The edited video captures Wortham saying, "I'm really wondering how this is going to work out since he's in a wheelchair and the slogans are saying, 'Stand with Wendy.'" Some laughter follows.
"And it's in our subconscious now," she continues in the video. "So it's interesting to me to see, from a psychological point of view, how it's going to play out."
At another meeting of Democrats in Austin, we hear a woman say, "First of all, he's not good-looking. He doesn't speak very well. And he's in a wheelchair." This last is followed by a man's derisive laughter.
Its release drew the conservative outrage you'd expect. But even Wendy Davis was quoted saying the comments were "abhorrent."
Yet if you watch the raw footage Project Veritas provides on its YouTube page, you might come away with a different reaction. To say that context had been edited out is to put it mildly. Here is Wortham's statement in full: "Give me some feedback. I'm really wondering how this is going to work out since he's in a wheelchair and the slogans are 'Stand with Wendy,' and 'Stand with Texas Women.' Isn't that amazing to think of? He's in a wheelchair and we want to "Stand with Wendy.'"
"That's just something," she began, and laughed a little, seeming somewhat embarrassed. "You don't want to be rude.... "I think we're just looking at it more because of her filibuster," says another woman. "Oh I know, exactly, that's a Twitter thing, a...." "A hashtag." "Yeah, and it's in our subconscious now. So it's interesting to me to see from a psychological point of view how it's going to play out."
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In context, her comments appear to pertain to how a broader electorate will react to Davis' slogan in relation to her opponent's disability. The conversation does get harsher, but on grounds of hypocrisy, not disability -- that his support of tort reform doesn't jibe with the multimillion-dollar settlement he won after being paralyzed by a falling tree branch.
The same goes for the comments of the woman who seemed to be making fun of his wheelchair. Here are her full comments: "Greg Abbott is really not a sure thing and he's really not -- maybe -- real electable. First of all, he's not good-looking. He doesn't speak very well. He doesn't have a good personality. And he's in a wheelchair. He doesn't have good hair -- I guess that goes with the good-looking part. Texans are prejudiced. I'm from West Texas, and they want their governor to be rah-rah, boots, hats, go wherever they want, so it's not a sure thing."
In full context, she's got a jaundiced eye about how the electorate will react to his disability. She's not making fun of it. Even worse, the harsh laughing that follows the wheelchair comment in O'Keefe's edited video actually comes later in the raw footage, after her comment about his hair.
I spoke with O'Keefe about these criticisms of his work -- that they're misleading and selectively edited -- for an upcoming feature story. He was largely dismissive, noting that in most cases his investigations led to resignations and firings, real-world consequences. But as his history as shown, these usually come before anybody has had a chance to vet the allegations. H/T Austin American-Statesman