Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been paralyzed since 1984. He had been jogging when a tree fell on him. It was a tragedy, and should in no way be used for humor and political fodder. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt had different ideas during a panel discussion at The Texas Tribune Festival last weekend, when the progressive judge cracked a joke about it.
At #TribFest19 panel on progressive activism, @JudgeEckhardt, talking about #txlege overriding local ordinances like Austin’s tree ordinance, says Gov. Abbott “hates trees because one fell on him.” The crowd laughs.— John Daniel Davidson (@johnddavidson) September 27, 2019
Travis County Republican Chairman Matt Mackowiak said Eckhardt's joke exposed her "profound lack of compassion."
Thankfully she apologized on Friday night.
"In my panel today at the Texas Tribune Festival on 'Public Enragement' I spoke about the importance of being able to disagree without being disagreeable," Eckhardt said in statement. "Then I said something disagreeable. I want to apologize to Governor Abbott. I made a flippant comment that was inappropriate. The comment did nothing to further the debate I was participating in, much less further the political discourse in our community, state, and nation. While the Governor and I disagree on a number of issues, that is no excuse to be disagreeable."
This is sadly not the first time Abbott's opponents have used his disability for political purposes. During the 2014 gubernatorial race, the campaign of Abbott's opponent, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, used an image of an empty wheelchair to argue that Abbott filed a lawsuit following his accident, but limited other accident victims to do the same.
At the time Abbott's campaign called it an "historic low." Until we were introduced to Judge Eckhardt's sense of humor, that is.