I’ve read through this piece on James O’Keefe’s Battleground Texas expose by the Austin American-Statesman’s Jonathan Tilove a few times now. I can’t find anything to justify this headline.
Tilove tries to justify it early in his article:
I know today’s headline on First Reading is provocatively worded, but it seems to me that after James O’Keefe’s latest video – which purported to find Wendy Davis’ supporters mocking Greg Abbott for being in a wheelchair – there may be a market for the home version of the TSA full body scanner. At the very least, it might now be a prudent precaution to give a quick but thorough pat down to anyone visiting your home for an occasion where the topic may turn to politics who you don’t already know and trust down to their bones (and as Tony Soprano learned with Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, even that may not be enough), just to make sure that “guest” is not wearing a wire, or worse yet, as in the case of the O’Keefe operatives, an undercover camera.
O’Keefe’s offense here was to find out what Democrats say among themselves when they believe that no one else is around. Bin Laden’s crime was to murder 3,000 and touch off a couple of wars. O’Keefe’s offense was to capture and then publicize the actual words of a couple of people. Bin Laden’s crime was to use the words of a book to motivate his army of irregulars to seize airplanes, murder flight crews, and crash those planes full of people into buildings full of people.
It takes an unusual mind to draw a line connecting James O’Keefe and Osama bin Laden, to say the least.
Tilove goes on from there to report, one-sidedly, on the tape that O’Keefe sensationally released last week. I say one-sidedly because Tilove turns away from looking into the background of the woman captured on the tape condoning voter fraud, except to note that Lisa Wortham doesn’t “speak for” Battleground Texas.
No one says that she does. But a very quick look-see online reveals that she is not what Tilove reports that she is:
Wortham is no more Battleground Texas staff than any person who goes out block walking for Greg Abbott is a member of his staff. She is one of 10,000 volunteers, and yes, the meeting at her house is part of the local networking that Battleground Texas fosters, but to suggest that she speaks in some official capacity for either Battleground Texas or the Wendy Davis campaign – which had not yet even been officially launched when the video was shot – is wrong.
Lisa Wortham is a personal injury attorney and a deputy voter registrar. She is also a Battleground Texas leader in Lewisville, a Dallas suburb of about 100,000. Tilove plays games, though, saying she is not “staff” when he is aware that few of those who do the grunt work for BGTX are, technically, staff. While they are not staff in the sense of being on a payroll or contributing to a pension plan through BGTX, they are holding meetings and block walks and registering voters and representing BGTX and the Wendy Davis campaign every day. The point of the meeting, which Tilove insists was in Wortham’s home to play up a privacy invasion angle, was to recruit activists to help the Davis campaign and to instruct those activists. Wortham herself is caught on tape suggesting that she favors turning a deaf ear to a confession of absentee voter fraud. Tilove does not report that at all. He includes it in a block quote but does not write on the voter fraud angle himself, which is a significant angle given the long fight over voter ID in Texas and the ongoing court fight against the Obama/Holder DoJ to preserve that law.
But Tilove looks into none of that in his article. Instead he goes after O’Keefe, and one of Abbott’s advisers. And he has a go at Greg Abbott for opposing the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that many in both parties opposed because of its expensive unfunded mandates on local and state governments and businesses. Abbott’s opposition to that law could be taken to demonstrate heartlessness — that’s the Democrats’ line — or consistency in his federalist ideas. Guess which way Tilove leans? He chooses to quote at length a disabled advocate who has problems with Abbott’s stance on the ADA. Apparently despite being armed with all the resources of the Austin American-Statesman, Tilove could find no one who could explain why Abbott might have viewed the law through a federal power lens and rejected it on that basis.
After that, Tilove uses an Abbott appearance on Megyn Kelly’s Fox show to try stuffing words into Abbott’s mouth.
Abbott is fine on the show. He says, “Well, Megyn, denigrating the disabled is unworthy of Texas. The reality is, Texans look far beyond superficial appearances. What Texans really look at is depth of character.” And like that.
But, what he might have added is, “You know Megyn, I should say that in the freedom-loving state of Texas, we believe that people should be free to talk about politics in the privacy of their own homes without fear of being eavesdropped on by the NSA, a hovering drone, or the surreptitious taping of a hidden camera. That, Megyn, seems to me to be an invasion of privacy.”
The NSA’s spying and scooping up data wholesale is now equivalent to James O’Keefe conducting targeted undercover journalism in a publicized meeting of Democrat activists? Seriously? Tilove appears to be searching about to find horrible, villainous memes to which he can glue James O’Keefe’s name.
Next, Tilove tosses in a comment that sounds like a veiled threat to troll the comments sections of blogs and Facebook pages just publish the worst thing he can find to get revenge for Wortham, Davis and BGTX.
And Abbott, like any politican [sic], especially in the modern age of social media, would seem to me to have an interest in not having everything any supporter says on line or in the prviacy [sic] of their own home, held against him.
Again, the woman caught on O’Keefe’s tape is a city leader and had organized that meeting for the express purpose of strategizing against Abbott. That being the case, O’Keefe’s undercover work hardly amounts to an invasion of privacy. That’s also not quite the same thing as random supporters (or Moby provocateurs) popping off in comments sections, as Tilove implies. It’s not NSA spying and it’s not terrorism. When newspapers do it, it wins Pulitzers.
The Austin media are circling the wagons to defend Wendy Davis and her Battleground Texas group to their last pixel. Abbott and other Republicans are just not going to get a fair shake — not from the Statesman, not from the Texas Tribune, not at all.