Incumbent Texas attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has joined the cacophony of voices that have criticized Democratic challenger Wendy Davis for a campaign ad that invoked his partial paralysis. The commercial, which featured an empty wheelchair, claimed that Abbot has actively worked against victims since he received a settlement for his 1984 accident.
“If she wants to attack a guy in a wheelchair, that’s her prerogative,” Abbott told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday night. “As for me, I’m running a different type of campaign. I’m running a campaign that’s focused on solving the problems of Texans … I will focus on the future of Texas while my opponent continues to attack me.”
Dubbed the “wheelchair ad” by critics, Davis’ commercial noted several instances in which Abbott -- who was partially paralyzed at age 26 when a tree fell on him while he was jogging -- ruled against individuals who were disabled in accidents or suffered through some form of injustice. “A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then, he’s spent his career working against other victims,” the wheelchair ad’s narrator said. Davis defended the ad Monday as a pertinent rebuke to what she defined as Abbott’s “hypocrisy.”
“He rightfully had an opportunity to access the justice system when he was at the receiving end of a tragic accident,” Davis told CNN affiliate KSAT in San Antonio. “But ever since he’s been actively fighting to close that door and deny access to others who have been wronged and who deserve to have their day in court.”
Despite Davis’ accusations, Abbott holds a firm lead in Texas’ gubernatorial race. He led his opponent 54 percent to 40 percent in a recent CBS/New York Times/YouGov poll, CNN reports. And the backlash related to the wheelchair ad won’t help Davis’ cause -- pundits on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the 30-second spot.
"I expect in campaigns that candidates will run negative and misleading ads; however, I never expected a candidate to use another candidate's physical disability as a prop in an ad or to their advantage," Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri said in a statement. "The Wendy Davis ad is easily the most offensive and despicable ad I have seen in my 42 years in politics. ... Using a wheelchair as a prop for political advantage is an affront to all disabled people."
He wasn't the only one offended. “Yikes, I cringed watching that,” said MSNBC’s Mika Brezezinksi, co-host of “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough, adding that she disagreed with “everything from the production of it, to the looming voice, to the issues.”
A roundup of Twitter reactions to Davis' wheelchair ad can be found below.
Greg Abbott rightfully got justice after a tragic accident but has fought to deny the same justice to other victims. http://t.co/KpuBJdU5fa
— Wendy Davis (@WendyDavisTexas) October 11, 2014
The Wendy Davis team are idiots. They are still running the offensive ad here every day.
— Kathleen McKinley (@KatMcKinley) October 14, 2014
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) October 11, 2014
Boy, those handicapped people sure are privileged, arent they? They even get their own special parking places. You go, Wendy Davis.
— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) October 11, 2014
"A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions." -- Wendy Davis' new ad. Um, terrible. http://t.co/3olowcEhhs
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) October 10, 2014
Wendy Davis’s ad is the nastiest thing I have seen in Texas politics since moving here. #txlege
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) October 10, 2014