February 10, 2014

#WendyDavis sued over THIS?

NOTE WELL: I don't take the GOP line that her "emotional duress" claim in filing the suit is anything other than legal boilerplate. Wingnut comments that try to hint at that will not be posted, in case this blog post gets that level of attention somehow.

That said ...

Unless someone can point me to anything else, THIS is the full final editorial from the Fort Worth Star Telegram, that, in Wendy Davis' first run for the Fort Worth City Council, in a runoff, that led to her suing the paper and its corporate parents. (And this all ties to current issues with her, the press, and her campaign in general.)


It's an editorial, it's not even a news story. And here it is.
On the eve of a City Council runoff election, a campaign has turned dirty. That’s not something we see much of in these parts. It’s also not something we respect or cotton to.
Fort Worth is a city that works. Its government, its businesses and even the people who agree to disagree have a unique ability to pull together for the common good. And all who live here and use the city for its culture and entertainment benefit from this attitude. It is a frame of mind that places the welfare of the many above pettiness and above those things that benefit only the few.

That’s why we view with disappointment the last-minute mailing to residents of District 9 sent by the Wendy Davis campaign, apparently to impugn the integrity of Davis’s opponent, Cathy Hirt.

Hirt finished slightly ahead of Davis in the regular campaign to fill the seat vacated by newly elected Mayor Kenneth Barr. The runoff election is scheduled today.

It is a heated battle. Many feel that it is too close to call.

Perhaps the intensity of the fight has caused good people to act callously and recklessly and to abandon good manners.

Whatever, it seems tasteless for the Davis campaign to imply that Hirt – who has a doctorate and speaks three languages – is inferior because she, according to the flier, failed the Tennessee bar exam three times before passing it. Davis, it is pointed out, attended Harvard University. Both women are attorneys.

The brochure points out that Davis has lived here all her life and that Hirt has been here less than five years. Last time we checked, length of residency in Fort Worth is not a prerequisite for service. In fact, Hirt has been an active neighborhood and civic leader and volunteer almost from the day she arrived.

Davis’s campaign uses a quotation to imply that the “power and money” crowd does not want her elected because she is too independent. We are not certain who the “power and money” crowd is, but we can guess.

There are many wealthy families in Fort Worth, but the family with the highest profile is the Basses. If this invective is directed at them, it seems unfair and uncalled for. All the Basses have done for this city is to simply make it the envy of every city in the country.

Sunday’s New York Times ran an extensive story extolling the virtues of our city, and the story line was based around the careful and successful development of our downtown Sundance Square. The story reported that this has been accomplished because of the huge financial investment of the Bass family.

Quite simply, they give generously and ask for nothing. Gratitude or at least the absence of being smeared, though, might be something they could expect. Should they be her target, then the misguided mailing is a black mark indeed on the face of her campaign.

Besides, Davis has raised probably more than $40,000 for this $75-a-meeting council seat, and some of her money has come from the rich and powerful people she now is trying, apparently, to paint as her enemies. What’s her beef? Her opponent has raised only about half as much. If she has the “money and power” crowd behind her, they certainly are a stingy bunch.

Then there is the question of openness raised by her flier. One quote about Davis says she’s “a fighter and a winner,” and another says she is “extraordinarily level-headed and fair-minded.” These and several other quotes are attributed to “Jerry Russell, Founder, Stage West.”

A small thing, perhaps, but telling: It would seem that Davis should have pointed out that Russell is her father, and obviously a proud one at that.

Finally, we should point out that we have endorsed Hirt and have said we think she is best qualified to serve District 9. We have said that several times.

What we are saying today is nothing more than this: It is sad that victory means so much to some people that they will follow the time-honored rule of politics: To win, you must fight dirty and with innuendo.

That’s what happens all the time nationally. It is not the rule here, but the exception. You would think someone who grew up here would know that.

- Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial, May 25, 1996
Really? Really? You sued over THIS? Yes, there were previous editorials in a cycle, but, were any of them worse than this?

Because the word "dirty" was used? As some lady friends of mine would say, "Get your big girl pants on."

The part about quote-mining her dad is laughable. Maybe that was emotional duress to have that pointed out.

Besides, if the StartleGram describes Davis' flier correctly, it was charitable in not pointing out the lie that she had not lived in Fort Worth all her life. All her non-Harvard adult life, perhaps. But, not all her life.

If anything, real liberals should have sued the StartleGram for mugging the truth. Because:
Quite simply, (the Basses) give generously and ask for nothing.
Is fucking laughable. I'm sure everything that Sid, Perry, and Nancy Bass has ever done for the city of Fort Worth has had zero strings attached, including anything they asked Davis to support when she eventually got on the city council.

Her actual filing mentions "news stories and editorials," but all I actually see posted online is the actual final editorial. I'm sure that's because the news stories were ... news stories, and without malice.

And, per her filing, it looks like so. Her work to block the Fort Worth Zoo's expansion program was behind a news story referenced on page 30:
From the outset of her candidacy, the zoo was not an issue in the City Council or Davis' campaign, The dispute had been resolved over a year before the election and the City Council had decided and voted on the issue. The Star-Telegram, however, insisted on interviewing Davis about the zoo in order to manufacture it as an issue in the race and then attack the candidate on the issue. This interview resulted in an article published in the May 1, 1996, edition of the Star-Telegram titled. "Zoo parking issue re-emerges in City Council race,'" The article proclaimed that after a year of dormancy, zoo expansion had once again become an issue in the 1996 City Council race. The article. written by Kristin N. Sullivan. also questioned the fund raising activities of the Davis campaign. Specifically, the article questioned why the Davis campaign was seeking campaign contributions from prominent zoo supporters whom she fought against the prior year, The article implied that such solicitation was unethical. The false implication of Davis personally bartering campaign contributions from former adversaries for a change of position on zoo expansion is both libelous and defamatory.
Hell, we'd all be eyeless and toothless from lawsuits, per Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof, if "implication" was grounds for a lawsuit, against anybody, let alone a famous person.

And, given that she later cozied up to the Basses, it arguably was not just opinion, but a true statement of fact.

If she lost a job at a high-profile law firm, well, in Texas especially, companies can do that.

Davis might be on better ground re the last editorial, as she notes on page 33:
Weeks prior to publishing this editorial, the Star·Telegram was provided with substantiated information, also included in Davis' campaign brochure, regarding Hirt's background. This information included, but was not limited to: (a) the fact that Hirt had graduated from law school in 1979; (bl the fact that Hirt took the Tennessee bar exam for the first time in 1985 and that Hirt failed that exam; (c) the fact that Hirt reapplied to take the Tennessee bar exam in December of 1985; (dl the fact that Hirt reapplied, for a third time, and took the Tennessee bar exam in 1989; (el the fact that Hirt stated on her resume that she worked as a Staff Attorney for the Tennessee School Board Association at a time when she was not licensed to practice law in Tennessee or elsewhere; (f) the fact that, after moving to Texas, H!rt listed herself "of counsel" to a Texas law firm on her resume, in the Texas Legal Directory and elsewhere in spite of the fact that Hirt has never been licensed to practice law in Texas, If true, these facts would show, in the very least, that Hirt exercised unusually bad judgment.
That said, "bad judgment" is not the same word as "inferior." And again, we're getting into implications.

And, the suit was not just dismissed. It was dismissed with prejudice, by summary judgment. And rightfully so.

Here's the StartleGram's lawyer at the time, Charles Babcock. commenting: 
“It was a remarkable theory that Ms. Davis was advancing – that this newspaper could not comment on the various issues of her campaign, and that it could not express its opinion as to which candidate it preferred. If Ms. Davis’s theories had been correct, there would have been a serious chill on the media to report on campaigns.” 
Exactly. Politicians do occasionally, at the middle or end of a race, sue over a news story. But, again, I've never before read of a politician suing over an editorial, and especially one that's relatively mild.  Let alone appealing it to a state appeals court, easily losing again, then appealing to the Texas Supreme Court and easily losing again! Especially when she got a summary judgment against her the first time, appealing was petty, or something.

And, news stories can be slanted without being defamatory. Happens all the time. Happens in mainstream media. Happens in new media that claim to be news sites and not blogs, too. Per the StartleGram later firing its executive editor over not following the company political line? That too happens. Remember, Wendy Davis, this is a right-to-work state, part of the Texas exceptionalism you seem to love, even if you didn't spend all your life here. (That said, per the Dallas Observer, her firing was indeed bizarre, but reinforces Davis' claim that Price, and her then-boss, Richard Conner were suck-ups to ... people like the Basses to whom Davis later sucked up.)

Bud Kennedy of the StartleGram op-ed staff talks about how they later befriended one another. Probably because she eventually befriended the Basses.

But, as far as the issue of actual libel? I'm going to quote from my Associated Press Stylebook:

And, that's that.

This all goes to the observations of Jim Moore and others (from the left side of the political aisle, folks) that Davis has a high "control" level in her political campaigns, and the lawsuit issue shows this goes back to the beginning of her political career.

That's doubly true in terms of Davis' relations with the press.

And, it's clear that she's either unwilling, or unable, to learn from her past. Related to that, particular to this lawsuit, it appears she's not the type of person to cut her losses.

All thoughts for the future in this year's gubernatorial race.

I'm now envisioning a version of former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, armed with a law degree and more anger, or something. Jim Schutze has somewhat the same take.

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