Gut Reaction: Team Rick Perry Used Glenn Beck to Attack Debra Medina

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Key Point: Do you think Glenn Beck had a large group of random people e-mail him about how Medina's advisors are 9/11 truthers? Or do you think, just maybe, that Team Rick Perry teed him up on this one to attack Medina because they saw her poll numbers were shooting through the roof? And now Perry is supposed to be ready go with radio attack ads about this already…

Has Medina questioned the government's involvment in 9/11 in the past? Maybe. I don't know. I'm not supporting her, so I don't care too much. But wasn't this a really random question to just come out of nowhere?

Here's a big hypothetical that makes too much sense to just be a hypothetical…

Imagine you are Rick Perry. You're the Governor of Texas. The extremely popular U.S. Senator you're running against in the primary, Kay Bailey Hutchison, was supposed to defeat you handily this year. But because her campaign team is dumber than rocks, she's squandered her massive popularity in one of the worst run statewide campaigns in United States history — and now you're sitting pretty and the clear favorite to win the Republican Party primary nomination.

And then, you see your internal polls, and you see public polls — like the ones in this chart:

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been in statewide office for twenty years. As a career politician, he knows every trick, and can create an attack out of nowhere if he has the right people on his side. And this morning — with the help of Glenn Beck and Fox News — he got his help (which shouldn't be too surprising, considering how much of a staple Rick Perry is on Fox News).

In fact, if you read the whole interview, it's pretty hard to not read it as a setup — especially from a guy like Glenn Beck.

Beck asks her how she is doing, asks her who she is, asks her about her policies, and asks her to expand on her claims that we eliminate the property tax — a claim that Talmadge Heflin, former Chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee and current director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation has advocated for repeatedly. Glenn Beck can't believe that proposal — making him already out-of-touch with the Debra Medina supporters — and then immediately launches into an out-of-nowhere question about 9/11.

September 11? Really? He asked that…because it was the eight-year, five-month anniversary of the terrorist attack? Why did that come up at all? Oh that's right — it was a “theme” in some of the mail he received about her.

And then there was Medina's initial response:

GLENN: I have when I said that I was going to have you on, you can't imagine the mail pro and con that I received. There was a theme that ran against you and that is you are a 9/11 Truther.

MEDINA: Well, there's lots of mud that people would like to throw at Debra Medina and make stick. The truth is I'm an everyday ordinary person. I am fighting for the things that our founders fought for, those very basic principles of a constitutional republic, and I'm going to champion people that hold their government accountable, hold me accountable but that's the first time I've heard that accusation. So that's an interesting one.

Great answer. But did Beck end the line of questioning, even though she answered it right the first time? Nope.

Beck pressed on, and here is where Debra Medina — a newcomer to the smashmouth world of politics — made a huge mistake and let the wheels come off the PR wagon: she did not make a clear unilateral statement that the government was not involved in the September 11 attacks (something she did, once she got her bearings again, later on her website).

Was it a huge and damaging mistake? Absolutely. Beck was ready to pounce:

GLENN: Do you have advisors, do you have advisor

MEDINA: I'm not going to take a position.

GLENN: That's fine.

MEDINA: These questions have been raised and they are not answered.

GLENN: Do you have advisors that advise you or people that are around you that are 9/11 Truthers?

MEDINA: Not to my knowledge.

GLENN: Would you, if you found out that there were, would you disavow them like the president should have but I mean, he escorted them out in the middle of the night. Van Jones was a 9/11 Truther. If you found out that people around you are advising you were 9/11 Truthers, would you disavow them or allow them to continue to advise you?

At this point, Beck is clearly trying to trap her into taking a position on what her advisors think. Medina stumbles to the end, Beck closes the interviews then laughs at her once she's off the phone, and the rest is immediately spun by Rick Perry supporters online (via Twitter, largely) while Debra Medina is trying to figure out why she was just slammed on national television. With a (likely) head start, the Perry people pounced on the news and told everyone that “Debra Medina is a 9/11 truther” — and it sticks because Team Rick Perry has a professionally paid spin machine, whereas Medina counts on grassroots support. So instead of Debra Medina getting to tell the press, “Rick Perry used Glenn Beck to set me up because he knew I was becoming a threat to his Governor's race” the story favors Perry. The rest is history in this wild and crazy Texas Governor's race.

Now the question is: what happens to Medina's supporters? Could she still force a runoff?

The truth is, we don't know the answer to that — and we won't until we get a better sense of whether or not her supporters see the action of today as a political attack from Rick Perry, or as a disappointing and unforgivable performance from a first-time candidate who made a very big mistake on a very big stage.


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. She was sacrificed because she could not win
    the Teabagger agenda cannot be held accountable. When all is known to be lost sacrifice the torch bearer. Even if she did somehow make it to 2nd place and kept Rick under 50% then she would get trounced in the run-off. Hindenburg Medina going down in flames before a vote is cast saves the movement to fight another day.

  2. Perry? Or Hutchison?
    She's far more of a threat to Hutchison than to Perry? Do you think Hutchison is above playing dirty? She plays dirtier than Perry. And of course in this case, she gets a “two-fer” since she makes Medina look like a lunatic and gets to blame Perry for making her look like a lunatic.

    Keep in mind Karl Rove may be behind the curtain but is probably running the puppet show.  

  3. freedomlover123 on

    “she did not make a clear unilateral statement that the government was not involved in the September 11 attacks”

    That wasn't the only mistake she made and in fact that mistake was a tiny one. Instead, she started using some of the “truthers” arguments. Fascinating that this part was left out of the blog posting.  

    “I don't have all of the evidence there Glenn so I'm not in a place, I have not been out publicly questioning that,” Medina said. “I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard, there are some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that.”

    Not taking a position on this issue is taking a position. If anything Beck was trying to help out Medina. That was the biggest softball question ever and she BOMBED IT! I'm still in shock and terribly disappointed that she could give an answer that was that stupid. All she had to say was NO! And, if she actually believes that 9-11 might have been an inside job it should be known. Republican voters need to know if a gubernatorial candidate has beliefs about 9-11 that stoop to the level of Obama appointees like Van Jones as well as others.

    I can totally see her being “surprised” by the question and not seeing it as relevant to Texas politics. So, then  WHY did she start making the same arguments that many “truthers” make? Say NO and then move on.

    I liked Medina prior to this. She, for the most part gave no nonsense straight answers. However, during this interview she reacted like a Perry/Obama/Hutchison…etc dishonest politician. Instead of just giving a straight answer she tried to obfuscate and is now no better than the Perrys and Obamas of the political world. It just makes me sick.

    • She missed an opportunity
      I saw her response to Beck and it almost sounded like KBH trying to answer the Roe v. Wade question in Dallas. I agree this was a softball question that should have been dismissed quickly then pointed out it's irrelevant to Texas politics. She could have easily refocused back to Texas politics and moved off the issue but she lingered on it way too long.

      Regardless of whether this was a Perry tactic to catch her off guard, I think she was awestruck by being on Beck's show and had hoped to make an impression. She misread the signs and got sidetracked. That shows an immature statewide level campaigner. Not her fault but she learned from it.

      Regarding where she sits, I don't even think she'll pass KBH but I am hoping she siphons enough votes from Perry to force a run-off between him and KBH. That forces more money to be expended and more chances for Perry to stick his foot in his mouth. Now Perry is hovering close to 50%. KBH keeps self-destructing and now Medina is in that club. It's not that Perry is running a stellar campaign. It's that his opponents are handing him the election.

    • Medina answered your question before you asked it
      You wrote: “Republican voters need to know if a gubernatorial candidate has beliefs about 9-11 that stoop to the level of Obama appointees like Van Jones as well as others. ”

      She answered that question when she released her statement, which was long before 4:46pm yesterday afternoon.

      Your outrage would be more interesting if I thought it was at all sincere…

      • freedomlover123 on

        Not really
        No one said Medina's response wasn't issued before 4:46pm. Why are you arguing against a claim that wasn't made? Straw man anyone? I guess that's your way of taking the focus off of you ignoring the part of the interview where she made some of the same  arguments that the “truthers” make.

        Republican voters do need to know if she has Van Jones type beliefs. She said one thing in the Beck interview and then released a statement a little while later saying something else. Furthermore, her released statement didn't address at all why she started making some of the arguments the “truthers” make. (That would be the part of the interview not mentioned in the blog posting.)

        She has come across as a two faced politician. It might as well have been Obama campaigning on health care negotiations being on CSPAN. If she agrees with the “truthers” own up to it. I can at least respect your honesty even though I strongly disagree. Don't make some of their arguments on the radio show and then turn around and say I don't agree with them.

        • Spin
          Quit trying to spin 9/11 truthers as leftist. I've never met a leftist 9/11 truther and the ones I have met have their bumpers plastered with Ron Paul/InfoWars/PrisonPlanet bumper stickers. We lefties know Bush or his administration had nothing to do with 9/11 because plainly put, it worked.

    • Agreed that it was a softball question
      He gave her a clear opportunity to say that she wasn't a truther and she bombed it.  If he had been out for blood, he would have asked a more loaded question or one that didn't allow her to easily say that she wasn't one.  He would have jumped straight to the question about her supporters.

      That being said we all say stupid things sometimes, especially when under pressure in front of a large audience and don't have much experience at it.  This one was really, really stupid though.

  4. The next couple days will tell
    This will keep Medina in the news, and if she handles herself well in the next couple of days, it could even help her. Basically, she has to come across as a reasonable “ordinary gal” victim of gotcha journalism (not to mention of the inevitable attacks from Perry and Hutchison), rather than as a flip-flopping crazy. It's a tall order, but her press release was a good start.  

    If she fumbles the damage control like she fumbled the interview, she's going to lose supporters. Not because they think she's crazy, but because people are disappointed that their hero could screw up like that. In other words, freedomlover123's reaction.  

  5. Dear freedomlover123 and Mymaria
    Looks like BOR attracted some right wingers with this post. Nice to have you have freedomlover123 and Mymaria. Just FYI though, your not going to get very far with this crowd by defending Glenn Beck or wrapping our good President in with Perry and Hutchison.

  6. Teabaggers are stupid
    So they will stick with Medina. True teaaggers will not support Hutchison or Perry, although perry at times kisses their asses. But that is just to get them to turn the other cheek, just for a while.

    They are quite the stupid bunch of people.

    Medina. All she had to say was NO. Nothing more. Let Beck try to get her to say more and just continue to say NO. Nothing else. But, she is stupid.


  7. Bobby Levinski on

    Weak Play
    Not to come to Debra's defense at all…cuz I'm pretty much polar opposite to her in every way…but to ask her to fire somebody because of their beliefs doesn't jive with her libertarian background.  She's even said she doesn't agree with homosexuality, but it's not the government's job to get involved.  If there's anything right-wingers hate more than '9/11 truthers', it's gay people.

    I'm much more concerned with her definition of freedom – property rights and guns…I think there are some crucial elements missing there.

  8. Medina is salting her pressers with her staffers
    Not exactly the sort of thing a “not-a-politician” does …

    “The political games we saw beginning to be played yesterday serve nothing but a diversion,” she said, denying that her news conference in Houston – during which some questions were posed by Medina campaign staff seated among reporters – was an effort at damage control. “No. This is continuing doing what we've been doing, campaigning hard for months.”

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