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Wendy Davis
stated on September 23, 2014 in speaking to reporters:
"Greg Abbott and his surrogates have referred to women who have been the victims of rape or incest as though somehow what they are confronting is a minor issue."
true pants-fire
By W. Gardner Selby September 25, 2014

Wendy Davis catches fire with incorrect claim about Greg Abbott, incest and rape

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, who has been pressing Republican candidate Greg Abbott to say if he opposes abortion in all circumstances, told reporters Abbott should disavow a supporter’s comment about rape and incest.

According to video posted online by KXAS-TV, NBC5 in Fort Worth, Davis said Sept. 23, 2014: "It is not acceptable that Greg Abbott and his surrogates have referred to women who have been the victims of rape or incest as though somehow what they are confronting is a minor issue. And I am calling on them to disavow those statements and to show their respect for women in this state who have undergone the horrific and heinous crimes of rape and incest and demonstrate their respect for what those situations have placed them in, the trauma that they’ve dealt with and step away from the idea that they, not these women who may be impregnated in these circumstances, somehow are in a better place of knowing how women should handle that situation."

Davis, a Fort Worth state senator, was asked if Abbott should be accountable for a comment by someone who doesn’t work for him. She replied that Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak, whose comments she was questioning, has "been a surrogate voice for Greg Abbott and the Greg Abbott campaign. And I think that most telling is the fact that Greg Abbott has not come forward  to disavow Matt Mackowiak’s characterization of women who have been victimized by rape and in cases of incest as though somehow they’ve suffered a minor issue."

Mackowiak (who has his own Truth-O-Meter report card) took exception to Davis’ characterization of his comments and urged us to check whether whether Abbott or his "surrogates," as Davis said, referred to victims of rape or incest as if they’d experienced minor events.

At issue is Mackowiak’s appearance on the Sept. 21, 2014, episode of KXAS-TV’s "Lone Star Politics" during which he and Davis advocate Matt Angle offered conflicting takes on how Abbott, the state attorney general, and Davis had fared in their first debate Sept. 19, 2014.

On the show, Dallas Morning News reporter Gromer Jeffers asked Angle, "Matt, do you think Wendy Davis picked up any women voters?"

"Absolutely," Angle replied, saying Abbott made it clear he plans to continue defending the state against school districts who say the funding system is unconstitutional. "And also," Angle said, "he again defended his position, his extreme position, that even in cases where women are victims of rape or incest that he would impose himself and others like him in the government to decide what they do with that pregnancy."

Next, Jeffers asked Mackowiak if abortion remains a tough issue for Davis in conservative-leaning Texas.

Mackowiak replied: "It is, that’s right. Wendy Davis didn’t use the word ‘abortion’ in her announcement speech when she announced for that office and that’s for that reason. Look, Wendy Davis filibustered a bill that would have outlawed, that did outlaw, late-term abortion after five months. That is the law of the land. Texas is a pro-life state.

"We can get into minor issues that are 1 percent or 2 percent of the problem. But ultimately, Texas is a strongly pro-life state. Abbott would love to fight this campaign on that issue alone from here on out, but Wendy knows that that’s not strategically wise.

Angle: "That’s the first time I’ve heard rape or incest called a minor issue."

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Mackowiak: "It’s minor in terms of the percentage of the cases, that’s all I’m saying."

Angle: "A victim of rape and incest is not a minor problem."

Mackowiak (nodding his head): "OK. All right. Great. Right."

The day after Davis made this claim, Mackowiak emailed us a statement saying he’s not an Abbott surrogate and had never claimed to be.

"I do not believe rape or incest is a minor issue and never said that," he told us. "For any victim of rape or incest, that brutal crime is a major and life-changing issue and the crime deserves to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Rather, I said that rape and incest are a small percentage of abortions."

Abbott campaign spokeswoman Amelia Chasse told us by email that Mackowiak hasn’t been employed or paid by Abbott’s campaign.

By email to our queries, Davis campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas said: "Any Republican who goes on television to do post-debate spin, uses their talking points and defends their positions is an Abbott surrogate." Petkanas said he was not aware of other Abbott surrogates making the rape-incest claim described by Davis.

Our ruling

Davis said Abbott and his surrogates "have referred to women who have been the victims of rape or incest as though somehow what they are confronting is a minor issue."

Davis got this wrong various ways given that the individual in question, a Republican consultant who doesn’t work for Abbott, immediately clarified on the air he was saying few abortions occur after incidents of rape or incest. Also on the air, Mackowiak agreed with the Democrat criticizing him that rapes and incest aren’t minor things. Davis’ camp also identified no other people who declared incest and rapes to be minor things nor is there evidence Abbott said anything of the sort.

Pants on Fire!

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

Video, "Lone Star Politics," KXAS-TV, NBC5, Fort Worth, aired Sept. 21, 2014; Wendy Davis speaking about Matt Mackowiak’s comments, Sept. 23, 2014, KXAS-TV (viewed Sept. 25, 2014)

Telephone interview and email, Matt Mackowiak, Republican consultant, Sept. 23-24, 2014

Emails, Zac Petkanas, communications director, Wendy Davis campaign, Sept. 25, 2014

Emails, Amelia Chasse, deputy communications director, Greg Abbott campaign, Sept. 25, 2014

News story, "Abbott, Davis accuse each other of extremism," The Associated Press, Oct. 6, 2013 (Fort Worth Star-Telegram website, link provided by email from Zac Petkanas, Sept. 25, 2014)

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More by W. Gardner Selby

Wendy Davis catches fire with incorrect claim about Greg Abbott, incest and rape

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