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Texas State Senator Threatens Legal Action against Pro-Life Group over Criticism

Texas State Senator Threatens Legal Action against Pro-Life Group over Criticism

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HOUSTON–Texas State Senator Bob Deuell (R) stands accused of attempting to coerce Salem Communications and Cumulus Dallas into censoring the First Amendment rights of Texas Right to Life by having a political ad removed under threat of legal action. The ad, paid for by Texas Right to Life, claims that Sen. Deuell “sponsored a bill to give even more power to these hospital panels over life and death for our ailing family members. Bob Deuell turned his back on life and on disabled patients.” This refers to SB303 from the 2013 Texas Legislative Session. The ploy by the Deuell campaign worked by keeping the ad off the air for about thirty-six hours at a critical point in the campaign leading into Monday’s start of early voting.

In a letter obtained by Breitbart Texas from Sen. Deuell’s attorneys George Hyde, Ross Fischer and Scott Tschirhart from the law firm Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal Hyde & Zech, P.C., the attorneys claim “These false and defamatory statements completely and totally misrepresent Senator (and Medical Doctor) Deuell’s position on Patient Protection and End of Life Legislation and completely and totally misrepresents Senate Bill 303. Moreover these statements specifically violate the Biblical admonitions against bearing false witness.”

The letter from Deuell’s attorney states the ad was paid for by Texas Right to Life PAC. This is not correct according to a letter received by Breitbart Texas from Texas Right to Life’s attorney, Trey Trainor a partner with Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, LLP who said the ad was paid for under a contract between the radio stations and Texas Right to Life Committee, Inc., a 501(c) (4) organization not the Texas Right to Life PAC.

John Peroyea, Regional Vice President of Operations for Salem Communications notified Texas Right to Life of their decision to pull the ad which their station had contracted with Texas Right to Life, Inc. In an email message obtained by Breitbart Texas, Peroyea stated, “Due to the legal demand letter received, we had to pull the spots late today when I returned to Dallas and read this letter and reviewed it with our counsel.” 

Jerry Ferch, General Sales Manager for Cumulus Dallas also notified Texas Right to Life of their decision to pull the ad they can contracted to run. In an email message obtained by Breitbart Texas, Ferch stated, “We have no choice, at this time, but to temporarily suspend the airing of this specific commercial, pending receipt of your supporting documentation. Upon receipt of said documentation, we will review your submitted materials to make our own assessment of the advisability of continuing to run this specific commercial, based on current law.”

Trainor’s letters to the radios stations made the point that Deuell’s attorneys only claim one statement as allegedly being defamatory. “… Bob Deuell sponsored a bill to give even more power to these hospital panels over life and death for our ailing family members. Bob Deuell turned his back on life and on disabled patients.”

Trainor points out the fact that Sen. Deuell was a sponsor of SB303 during the 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature (2013) and also pointed to sections in the bill which prove the point that the bill does “give even more power” to the hospitals and doctors.

In an interview with Breitbart Texas, Trainor said that because both of the points in the first sentence are true and accurate facts and the second sentence is purely the opinion of Texas Right to Life, no defamation exists and the radio stations should should have put the ad back on the air.

When asked by Breitbart Texas if the removal of the ads from the airways by the television networks for about thirty-six hours was a reasonable, Trainor responded, “Not at all. They took it down on unfounded accusations. It should have been reviewed within hours of our response and a determination made within a reasonable time.”

Dr. Joseph Graham, Texas Right to Life President, told Breitbart Texas, “We are very troubled by the smear tactics launched against Texas Right to Life by Bob Deuell. We used to enjoy a productive relationship with Bob Deuell, until 2007, when his commitment to the medical lobby proved to be stronger than his commitment to protect vulnerable patients.” He continued, “While Bob Deuell may oppose abortion, his efforts to expand euthanasia and give more power to hospital panels over the lives of patients disqualify him from Texas Right to Life’s support. With Obamacare on the horizon and health-care rationing on the rise, Texas must be the leader in shielding patients from futility policies and practices. Regrettably, Bob Deuell worked to pass measures that jeopardize patients, not protect them.”

“Because Texas Right to Life is telling voters about Bob Deuell’s alignment with the medical lobby and the pro-abortion Texas Medical Association, he is trying to intimidate us into pulling our ad campaign.  Deuell has engaged in these personal attacks in the past, but Texas Right to Life is undaunted, and our lawyers are prepared to defend our First Amendment rights to communicate with citizens of Senate District 2 and Texas.”

Texas Right to Life responded to the alleged attempted censorship by releasing a second ad:

In Trainor’s letter to the radio stations, he claims Sen. Deuell is using the power and influence of his position as a Texas State Senator to suppress the First Amendment rights of Texas Right to Life. “Please be advised that we regard the attempt to halt our advertisements by Mr. Deuell and his counsel to be the initiation of a strategic lawsuit against public participation, tortious interference with a contract, and an attempt by a state official, Senator Deuell, to limit and curtail the constitutional rights, specifically, First Amendment rights, of Texas Right to Life Committee, Inc. under color of state law.”

A statement on the Texas Right to Life website presents, “Texas Right to Life joined 17 other state and national organizations in opposing Deuell’s SB 303 during the 83rd Legislative Session. The witnesses who opposed SB 303 outnumbered those in favor by 4 to 1. Despite this, Bob Deuell continued to push his bill through the legislature even though many disabled patients testified that the bill would further endanger them as victims of quality-of-life judgments. Texas Right to Life is alerting voters that Deuell’s allegiance is to the medical lobby and not to families and their ailing loved ones. That’s why he’s trying to intimidate RTL with baseless legal threats.”

Breitbart Texas reached out to Cumulus Dallas and Salem Communications to enquire if they were going to respond to Trainor’s letter by putting the ad back on the air.  Jerry Ferch said in a phone conversation that he could not respond on the matter and he would refer an email from Breitbart Texas to an appropriate person for a response. No response to our email inquiries has been made by either radio network as of the time of this publication but the original ad and the secondary ad are once again playing on both television networks.

Ltr to KLTY for Senator Bob Deuell Cease and Desist2014 0514 by BobPriceTX

TRtL Response to Deuell Cease and Desist by BobPriceTX

Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.


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