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Andrea Mitchell Tosses Softballs to Wendy Davis, Presses Her About Running for Governor

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell has been leading the charge in support of Texas state senator Wendy Davis’ efforts to block a popular abortion regulation bill in the Texas legislature. Despite the fact that the legislation will soon be signed into law by Texas Governor Rick Perry, MSNBC has been championing her as the new face of the Democratic Party.

During an interview with Senator Davis on July 10th, Mitchell provided softball question after softball question to promote Davis’ abortion agenda. The MSNBC host began the segment by framing the issue in pro-abortion terms, “Texas statehouse Republicans rolled over the opposition today approving new abortion restrictions.” [MP3 audio here.]

The journalist, who advocates for a woman’s “right to choose” on a regular basis, deliberately chose to frame the debate in favor of abortion activists, when she could have easily said that the Republican legislature passed a popular pro-life bill into law. Instead, Mitchell began her interview by pleading with Davis to continue her fight:

Clearly the opposition was rolled over. This wasn't a day where you could launch a filibuster. Is there anything else legislatively that you can do to stop this from going through the senate?

Mitchell’s decision to describe a popular abortion safety bill as one that “rolled over the opposition” then enabled Davis to rail against the Republican controlled Texas legislature:

The real attempt of this bill isn't to address that issue at all; it is to close 37 of the 42 clinics that function in the state of Texas today.

After Davis lamented that many of the state’s abortion clinics might not be able to raise the money necessary to meet the new safety standards required in Texas, Mitchell then groaned that:

Texas already has a very large population of women who rely on Planned Parenthood and other public resources because of a lack of other facilities. So this is going to have a big affect on women's healthcare beyond abortion.

Nowhere in her interview did the NBC host bother to challenge Davis’ objections to the bill, instead allowing her to go on a long rant about how the Republicans are causing a:

Stepping back in time in the state of Texas and be at a place once again where women who have resources and the ability to access this care will continue to be able to receive that much like we saw back in the 1950s.

The veteran MSNBC host concluded her strategy session by asking Davis about her future in Texas, suggesting that:

The last woman Democratic governor was Ann Richards. The last, I think, Democratic senator from Texas was all the way back in 1961 replacing LBJ when he became vice president. Are you thinking about statewide office? Are you thinking about running for Governor?

In fact, Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen served from 1971 through 1993. Considering that Mitchell has been covering politics for NBC since 1978, one would think she might know that. 

See relevant transcript below.

MSNBC

Andrea Mitchell Reports

July 10, 2013

1:00 a.m. Eastern

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good day. I'm Andrea Mitchell in Washington. Overriding shouts of protests from the gallery Texas statehouse Republicans rolled over the opposition today approving new abortion restrictions by a vote of 96-42. The bill now goes on to an almost certain passage in the senate.

JODIE LAUBENBERG: My goal in this bill is to stop abortions at five months based on the pain, based on the science and technology that we have today that we did not have 40 years ago. That is my purpose.

CAROL ALVARADO: You are putting an undue burden on women, wouldn't you agree?

LAUBENBERG: Representative Alvarado you’re going on the premise that abortion clinics will close. I disagree with you. I do not believe they will close. There’s nothing in this bill that mandates or forces them to close.

MITCHELL: Joining me now is the woman who stopped the bill cold two weeks ago putting the debate the debate on the national stage. Texas state senator Wendy Davis. Senator Davis, thank you so much for being with us. Thanks for joining us today. Well, your reaction to the vote. It happened an hour ago. Clearly the opposition was rolled over. This wasn't a day where you could launch a filibuster. Is there anything else legislatively that you can do to stop this from going through the senate?

WENDY DAVIS: Well, it will come over to the senate now, and it's expected that we may hear it as early as Friday, perhaps Saturday or Monday. And clearly with so many days left in the second called special session, filibustering the bill would require a super-human feat that none of us is capable of unfortunately.

MITCHELL: So this is going to become law and the real effect I wanted you to just respond to what that house member was saying because while there’s nothing literally in the bill that would close those clinics, requiring them to have surgical facilities would, in effect, close those clinics.

DAVIS: That's right. The clip that you played, she was talking about one piece of a four-part omnibus bill and the piece that she was talking about out, that 20-week issue, is one that affects 0.57% of abortions that are taking place in Texas today. A vast majority of those taking place where severe fetal abnormalities or the health of the mother are at risk. The real attempt of this bill isn't to address that issue at all; it is to close 37 of the 42 clinics that function in the state of Texas today. Governor Dewhurst, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst tweeted that out, that he was very pleased that that would be the outcome of the bill and the reason that it will occur is because the standards that are required to become an ambulatory surgical center, to require that doctors that who perform these services have admitting privileges within 30 miles of a hospital, within 30 miles of the clinic and also to severely restrict medicinal abortions that are occurring today through the use of RU-486 will severely constrain women's access. We are a huge state and the fact of the matter is that these clinics will not be able to afford to adhere a surgical center standard requirement and even those that will ultimately raise the money to do it will likely take a very long time in order for the new facility standards to be met. A few years ago when Texas imposed on a 16-week and longer gestational period, this standard, it took about 2 and 1/2 years for five clinics to come up to the standards that are required under that. So we know it's going to have a very devastating outcome particularly on women in our rural communities who don't have the resources or the ability to travel and will likely see a stepping back in time in the state of Texas and be at a place once again where women who have resources and the ability to access this care will continue to be able to receive that much like we saw back in the 1950s. But women without those resources are going to turn, unfortunately, to dangerous and very unhealthy alternatives.

MITCHELL: And Texas already has a very large population of women who rely on Planned Parenthood and other public resources because of a lack of other facilities. So this is going to have a big affect on women's healthcare beyond abortion.

DAVIS: Most definitely. In 2011 the Republican-led legislature cut dramatically services for family planning and well women care through these family service clinics all over the state of Texas and over 50 of them closed within just a few short months of those budget cuts. It left about 150,000 women without access to care that had been receiving their only source of health care at those facilities. And many more of those facilities now will close under the provisions of this bill. And it really highlights the irony; the hypocrisy of what it is that republicans are up to here. If what we truly care about is decreasing the abortion rate in the state of Texas and I believe that uniformly people believe that that's a goal that we should all strive toward, to take away family planning services and to assure that women without resources who live in these remote areas of Texas are going to see higher rates of unplanned pregnancies will only do nothing but create a higher Medicaid birth rate. Right now it costs the state about $1.3 billion a year for those births. So it's not even a fiscally prudent thing to do, but it’s an inhumane thing to do, to force women into a situation where they literally have no control over their own bodies, over their destinies. It's big government at its worst intruding into some of the most private decision making of course that we possess under our constitutional liberties.

MITCHELL: I want to ask you about Governor Perry because he has now announced that he is not going to seek another term sparking a lot of speculation that he's going to re-enter the presidential race in 2016. This is what he said about you back on June 27th when you were in the middle of the filibuster.

RICK PERRY: She was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. 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.

MITCHELL: What was your response to that?

DAVIS: It was an unfortunate statement by the governor, and I really think that it demeaned the high office that he holds. I'm in elected office. I've been through some really tough campaigns and I have tough skin and it didn't upset me for me but it upset me to see the callous attitude that had toward women who face these very, very tough choices and women like me who were very young perhaps when they experienced this challenge. I made a choice to raise my child and she's 30 years old and I'm so proud of her and so fortunate that I had the ability to make a choice and also had incredible opportunities in Texas to lift myself up by my boot straps and move into a better life for myself and my daughter, but not every woman has the opportunities in front of her that I had and I think for him to say that really shows a callous disregard and a complete lack of understanding for the challenges that women face, particularly if they cannot access family planning services and prevent an unplanned pregnancy in the first place.

MITCHELL: Now as you know, the political odds in Texas, it has been a solidly Republican state. The last woman Democratic governor was Ann Richards. The last, I think, Democratic senator from Texas was all the way back in 1961 replacing LBJ when he became vice president. Are you thinking about statewide office? Are you thinking about running for Governor?

DAVIS: There's talk about that and, of course, I’m looking down the road at whether that's the right thing for me to do, whether it’s the right time for the state. As it relates to this particular issue I am finding that it's not one that cuts across party lines. There are many people who are coming to the capitol and testifying who have been showing up at the rallies who are sharing their stories that they are Republican, that they have long Republican voting histories but that they see this as an intrusion in their liberty and their decision making in a way that they find reprehensible. So I think this issue itself actually cuts across those lines. And there are opportunities for statewide conversations to be had about whether there should be alternatives, whether there should be a conversation in a general election for people to make a decision about the kind of leadership they want to see in the state of Texas. As I said I have a few days at least left in the special session, and we are fully engaged in the battle that's before us. When we complete that I'll have time to really sit back and reflect on whether that's the right thing to do.

MITCHELL: Wendy Davis. Well, we hope you'll come back and talk to us again when you make your decisions and thank you very much for being with us today.

DAVIS: Thank you, Andrea.

-- Jeffrey Meyer is an intern with the Media Research Center.