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Big Three Acclaim 'Passionate' Pro-Abortion Texas Legislator's Filibuster; All But Ignore Pro-Life Voices

ABC, CBS, and NBC's morning newscasts on Wednesday spotlighted Texas State Senator Wendy Davis's filibuster against pro-life legislation, hyping how she stood for hours in "comfortable pink sneakers" to stop a vote on the bill. The networks trumpeted how "the unfolding drama topped the list of worldwide Twitter trends," but ABC and NBC failed to include any tweets or soundbites from supporters of the proposal. [audio available here; video below]

CBS This Morning did include two clips from a pro-life Texas state legislator, but anchors Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell gushed over Davis. Rose harped about her "very interesting life story," while O'Donnell asserted that "she's going to become big figure now, I think, in Texas politics."

NBC correspondent Kelly O'Donnell began her report on Today by noting how the Democratic state senator "took over the statehouse floor for a marathon that began Tuesday morning." O'Donnell's biased outline on the politician's filibuster noted that "Davis came ready with comfortable pink sneakers. At times, she was passionate....Other times, defiant....Her message struck a chord, with the topic 'Stand with Wendy' trending on Twitter throughout the night."

At the exact same moment, on Good Morning America, news anchor Josh Elliott emphasized that Davis "may have made all of the difference" with her move, and also highlighted her footwear: "Wearing her comfortable pink sneakers, because she wouldn't be allowed to sit down for 13 hours, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis took the podium and took a stand." Elliott didn't zero in on the "Stand with Wendy" hashtag trend as O'Donnell did on NBC, but went out of his way to point out that "even President Obama Tweeted his support to Davis."

CBS This Morning led their broadcast with the Davis filibuster. Correspondent Manuel Bojorquez wasted little time before spotlighting the "firestorm of protests" at the Texas state capitol against the pro-life legislation. Bojorquez didn't use the "comfortable" label for the state senator's pink sneakers, as had O'Donnell and Elliott, and stood out for playing two soundbites from Republican State Senator Bob Deuell, a supporter of the bill.

However, the CBS journalist still slanted toward the pro-abortion side by playing four clips from opponents of the legislation – two from Davis and two from the CEO of an abortion clinic in Texas. A on-screen graphic during the segment only featured Tweets from three prominent liberals: President Barack Obama, Senator Harry Reid, and entertainer Rick Gervais.

Norah O'Donnell and Charlie Rose made their laudatory remarks about Davis after Bojorquez's report:

NORAH O'DONNELL You know, it's quite a story in Texas. I mean, an eleven-hour filibuster, where she had to put on a back brace – or attempted to at one point – but could not lean, go to the bathroom. The opponents of this bill say it would close all but five of 42 abortion clinics in – in Texas-

CHARLIE ROSE: And her life story is a very interesting life story-

O'DONNELL: Her life story is really – she was a single teenage mother who made her way to Harvard Law School. And she's going to become big figure now, I think, in Texas politics.

ROSE: Indeed.

The full transcripts of the reports from ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today on Wednesday:

06/26/2013
07:10 am EDT
ABC – Good Morning America

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:  Let's go to Josh now, and boy, a wild scene down in the Texas legislature.

JOSH ELLIOTT: A wild night in Texas to the very end – that's true; that's true. We're going to begin there. A tense – tense political drama stretched into the wee hours, actually, of this morning, and all over a plan to restrict abortions in the State of Texas. And, as you're about to see, one lawmaker, who took a stand, may have made all of the difference.

[ABC News Graphic: "Political Drama Unfolding Overnight: Senator In Sneakers Fights Abortion Bill"]

ELLIOTT (voice-over): Wearing her comfortable pink sneakers, because she wouldn't be allowed to sit down for 13 hours, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis took the podium and took a stand.

SEN. WENDY DAVIS, (D), TEXAS (from speech on floor of Texas State Senate): Members, I'm rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans.
                           
ELLIOTT (voice-over): With no food, no water, and no bathroom breaks allowed, Davis hoped to run out the clock on the legislative session, and so, block a bill that would close virtually every abortion clinic in Texas. But to engineer the filibuster, she also couldn't change the subject. And her Republican opponents say she did just that just before the midnight deadline – igniting chaos, as hundreds of her supporters protested, shouting her name. (clip of protesters chanting "Wendy")

Lawmakers then scrambled to vote in time, approving the bill. But then, this morning, a stunner –  the lieutenant governor confirming that the timing of that vote was changed in the computer. The vote was actually taken after midnight. It won't count. The bill will not become law.

ELLIOTT (on-camera): And even President Obama Tweeted his support to Davis, but this battle's far from over. Republican Governor Rick Perry said that he could call a special legislative session, and a legal challenge is expected.


06/26/2013
07:02 am EDT
CBS This Morning

CHARLIE ROSE: The fight over a controversial abortion bill in Texas brought late night drama. State senators failed to pass the bill by only minutes.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Hundreds of loud protesters packed the state capitol. One lawmaker staged a filibuster that lasted close to 11 hours.

Manuel Bojorquez is at the state capitol in Austin. Manuel, good morning.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: Good morning, Charlie and Norah. You know, for a while this morning, it appeared as if state senators had indeed voted to pass the bill. But just a few hours ago, the lieutenant governor of Texas acknowledged computer records had been changed to make it look like Republicans voted the bill through in time – when, in fact, they had not. And in trying to push through the vote, they ignited a firestorm of protests.

[CBS News Graphic: "Marathon Filibuster: Overnight Drama In TX Stalls Abortion Vote"]

BOJORQUEZ (voice-over): It all started just after 11 AM Tuesday, when Texas State Senator Wendy Davis took to the floor.

WENDY DAVIS, (D), TEXAS STATE SENATOR (from speech on floor of Texas State Senate): I'm rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored.

BOJORQUEZ: She remained standing in her pink sneakers for nearly 11 hours straight, in an attempt to block sweeping Republican legislation that would, among other things, ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

DAVIS: The actions intended by our state leaders on this particular bill hurt Texans. There is no doubt about that.

BOJORQUEZ: Filibuster rules barred Davis from sitting down. She was not allowed to even lean on anything or take a single break – not for a meal, not to use the restroom. But with less than two hours left on the clock, GOP leaders suspended the filibuster, saying Davis violated the rules by veering off topic. That forced Democrats to stall until midnight, with the help of a very vocal galley, (clip of chanting crowd in Texas State Senate chambers) which drowned out attempts to vote on the bill. At one point, more than 170,000 people were logged into the livestream. The unfolding drama topped the list of worldwide Twitter trends.

[CBS News Graphic: "Barack Obama, @BarackObama: Something special is happening in Austin tonight #StandWithWendy; Senator Harry Reid, @SenatorReid: Wendy Davis engaged in the kind of filibuster I can support. #StandWithWendy; Ricky Gervais, @rickygervais; Whatever the outcome, @WendyDavisTexas efforts entered her into the pantheon of American heroes tonight. #StandWithWendy"]

BOJORQUEZ (on-camera): Even after the midnight deadline, the chanting did not stop. Hundreds of people who fought against the bill gathered here in the capitol rotunda – on the ground floor and several floors up.  (clip of crowd chanting, "Wendy!")

BOJORQUEZ (voice-over): And it worked. In the end, the disruptions prevented Republicans from pushing the vote through in time.

BOJORQUEZ (off-camera): Your goal here is what?

SEN. BOB DEUELL, (R), TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Is safety in abortions

BOJORQUEZ (on-camera): So, what do you think their goal is here?

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, CEO, WHOLE WOMAN'S HEALTH: To restrict access – plain and simple.

BOJORQUEZ (voice-over): Critics say upgrades would force nearly all the state's abortion clinics to close.

HAGSTROM MILLER: The vast majority of us wouldn't be able to afford that kind of construction. We're talking millions and millions of dollars-

BOJORQUEZ (on-camera): You'd have to close-

HAGSTROM MILLER: Absolutely – there's no – there's no question.

DEUELL: They don't have to close. I think they're just saying that because they don't want to spend the money.

BOJORQUEZ (live): Texas Governor Rick Perry could still call another special session to try to move the bill through. Earlier this morning, the lieutenant governor hinted that would happen, saying – quote, 'It's been fun, but see you soon.' Charlie and Norah?

ROSE: Manuel, thanks.

O'DONNELL You know, it's quite a story in Texas. I mean, an eleven-hour filibuster, where she had to put on a back brace – or attempted to at one point – but could not lean, go to the bathroom. The opponents of this bill say it would close all but five of 42 abortion clinics in – in Texas-

ROSE: And her life story is a very interesting life story-

O'DONNELL: Her life story is really – she was a single teenage mother who made her way to Harvard Law School. And she's going to become big figure now, I think, in Texas politics.

ROSE: Indeed.


06/26/2013
07:10 am EDT
NBC – Today

MATT LAUER: It was a late and wild night at the Texas statehouse – a day-long filibuster ending with a controversial vote on abortion restrictions.

NBC'S Kelly O'Donnell has details on that. Kelly, good morning to you.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Matt. Well, it's always an emotional issue, but this time, Texas Republican lawmakers were responding to the national outrage over that Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted of awful crimes earlier this year. And Texas Democrats do not want to see any new restrictions.

[NBC News Graphic: "Breaking Overnight: Texas Filibuster Showdown: Controversial Abortion Bill Dies Amid Senate Confusion"]

O'DONNELL (voice-over): Turmoil in Texas: Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis took over the statehouse floor for a marathon that began Tuesday morning – a filibuster intended to last until midnight, when the legislature's term expired – in order to block a vote on an abortion-related bill. At stake: a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and a requirement that all procedures be done at surgical centers. That would reduce the number of available abortion clinics in the state from 47 to 5.

WENDY DAVIS, (D), TEXAS STATE SENATOR (from speech on floor of Texas State Senate): That might take us back to that point in time that existed, not only in the State of Texas, but as in the country as a whole.

O'DONNELL: Davis came ready with comfortable pink sneakers. At times, she was passionate.

DAVIS: And what's so disturbing, is that we don't seem to care.

O'DONNELL: Other times, defiant.

DAVIS: I'm not yielding for any questions at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: The (unintelligible) senator does not yield.

O'DONNELL: Her message struck a chord, with the topic 'Stand with Wendy' trending on Twitter throughout the night. But after almost 13 hours, the filibuster ended when Davis' Republican colleagues determined that she broke two of the strict filibuster rules: stay on topic and remain standing without assistance. With the filibuster over, Republicans rushed to settle the vote by midnight, and Democrats tried to stall it.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Parliamentary inquiry.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: Parliamentary inquiry.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: I have a parliamentary inquiry.

O'DONNELL: At first it appeared that Republicans succeeded and passed the bill. But after a closed-door meeting, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst reversed his initial ruling, and announced the vote failed to meet the midnight deadline. And so, the bill did not pass.

O'DONNELL (on-camera): But in the short-term, the Democrats' strategy worked. But Texas's Republican governor, Rick Perry, who supports this bill, could call a special session bringing legislators back to try again, and if he does, that will surely get a lot more attention. Savannah?

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: What a night in Texas – Kelly O'Donnell, thank you.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.