Wendy Davis wheelchair ad hammers 'Mostly True' claims

Paul Brown of TWC News quizzes us about our checks of two claims by Wendy Davis in her ad showing an empty wheelchair (Oct. 17, 2014).

Is "Justice," the Wendy Davis TV ad featuring an empty wheelchair and immediate mention of how Greg Abbott came to be a paraplegic nasty beyond words?

No idea. That kind of appraisal isn’t our bailiwick.

But we did apply the Truth-O-Meter to two claims in the ad from Davis, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Fort Worth state senator, about Abbott, the Republican nominee and state attorney general who was fatefully injured in 1984 when a tree fell on him while he was jogging.

Abbott sued and ended up with millions of dollars in compensation for his injuries, the Davis ad opens, but he’s otherwise worked against victims.

The ad’s narrator says: "He ruled against a rape victim who sued a corporation for failing to do a background check on a sexual predator."

That was a reference to Abbott’s 1998 dissent to a majority ruling when he was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. In August, we rated Mostly True a claim by Davis that Abbott found that a company whose vacuum cleaners were sold door to door "had no responsibility" in the hiring of a salesman who raped a customer.

Then-Justice Abbott specified the manufacturer had no duty, to be precise. This Davis claim failed to include the substantive detail that Abbott, unlike the court majority, considered most significant an existing agreement between the manufacturer and distributors explicitly giving full responsibility for such hirings to the distributors who, Abbott implied, had control over checking the background of applicants.

The narrator of "Justice" also says Abbott "sided with a hospital that failed to stop a dangerous surgeon who paralyzed patients." This week, we rated Mostly True an earlier Davis claim that weeks "after accepting a quarter-million-dollar campaign contribution" from a hospital board chairman, Abbott went to court against victims of a drug-taking neurosurgeon. Abbott, as attorney general, this year intervened in federal suits to defend a legislated 2003 change in tort law criticized by advocates for patient-plaintiffs for creating an impossibly high hurdle for their clients to win damages from the hospital where the surgeon allegedly committed his misdeeds. Abbott has said he is otherwise not taken a position against the plaintiffs suing for redress.

Davis offers as the basis of her new ad’s other criticism of Abbott -- the narrator says Abbott argued that a women whose leg was amputated was not disabled because she had an artificial limb -- a Feb. 15, 2014, news story in the Dallas Morning News. According to the story, Abbott’s office argued in 2004 that a woman with one leg could not claim disability discrimination because she wore a prosthesis that remedied her mobility. The story said the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court rejected the argument, issuing a unanimous, written opinion opening the case to trial, which the state then won on the merits. The jury found, the story said, that Evelyn Little was frequently passed over for a job as a food service worker on issues not related to her disability.

Want to know more about how the candidates are faring on the Truth-O-Meter? See Davis’ Truth-O-Meter report card here. See the Abbott report card here.