Wendy Davis Sued Newspaper for Damaging Her Mental Health, Future Prospects

Wendy Davis Sued Newspaper for Damaging Her Mental Health, Future Prospects

Ever wonder what would happen if the media stopped literally fawning at Wendy Davis feet? It turns out she doesn’t respond well to criticism.

After losing a race for City Council in 1996, Wendy Davis filed a lawsuit against the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram citing “defamatory and libelous” remarks which caused her “to suffer damages to her mental health.”

The story of Davis’ unusual lawsuit was recounted by the San Antonio Express News Monday. The blog Sara for America has highlights:

Davis said in her lawsuit that the newspaper ran “a series of contrived and false news stories and editorials…with malicious intent.”

The lawsuit said “defamatory and libelous” remarks were made to inflict emotional distress and to deny her rights to free speech, assembly and association.

It said that “Davis has suffered and is continuing to suffer damages to her mental health, her physical health, her right to pursue public offices in the past and in the future, and to her legal career.” She sought unspecified damages, including “significant exemplary damages.”

One really has to stop and soak in the idea that Wendy Davis, a pure media creation attempting to translate her 15 minutes of pink-sneakered fame into a ticket to the Governor’s mansion, once sued a newspaper for hurting her feelings.

Actually, the paper wasn’t being unfair at all, it was pointing out that she was a sleazy candidate. From National Review:

Specifically cited [in the lawsuit[ is a Star-Telegram editorial published the day of the runoff election between Davis and opponent Cathy Hirt, whom the paper had endorsed. The editorial expressed “disappointment” at an opposition-research flier that Davis’s campaign had circulated in the days leading up to the election and that, among other things, attacked Hirt for failing multiple times to pass the Tennessee bar exam and raised questions about whether Hirt had practiced law in Texas illegally.

Davis didn’t like the Ft. Worth paper pointing out that she was fighting “dirty and with innuendo” (Cathy Hirt had a doctorate) so she sued them. The lawyer who defended the paper said of the incident “I have never seen anything like it before or since.”

According to National Review’s Andrew Stiles, “The suit…was quickly dismissed
by a district-court judge, who sustained all of the defendants’
objections, largely on the grounds that Davis had failed to present
legitimate evidence to support her libel claim.” She appealed it all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, losing at every turn.

Again, what kind of politician files a nuisance suit against a newspaper and then takes it to the state’s Supreme Court. What precedent was Harvard trained Davis trying to set? How would the first amendment be applied in Texas if newspapers could not write factual editorials about candidates? These are questions someone might want to ask Wendy Davis the next time she is invited to speak with the national media.


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