Sen. Dan Patrick issued a terse statement late Thursday about a period in his life 30 years ago during which he sought medical attention to cope with “mild depression and exhaustion.”
Patrick, who is in a runoff with David Dewhurst for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor issued the statement late Thursday in response to various media reports that he once was on anti-depressants and admitted to a psychiatric hospital, according to court documents related to a slander suit Patrick filed against the Houston Post in the 1980s.
While Patrick accused Dewhurst of releasing the documents to the media, the documents were released to the San Antonio Express-News and other media by Jerry Patterson, the departing Commissioner for the General Land Office of Texas and a former candidate for lieutenant governor.
See the Trib and First Reading for all the details. Let me just say, there is nothing at all shameful about Patrick’s medical history. Depression is no more disqualifying for office than bunions or hemorrhoids or cataracts or any other medical condition. An ongoing undisclosed condition might be an issue, but this? This was a disgraceful attempt to shame someone for a common and unremarkable problem, and it reeks of desperation. Everyone involved in releasing this information needs to do some deep soul searching about their own decency and humanity. I’m particularly disappointed in Jerry Patterson, who is generally an honorable person. You’re better than this, Jerry.
So I condemn this attack wholeheartedly, and any Democrat that might be thinking about revisiting it after May 27 needs to drop that thought right now. There are tons of legitimate attack vectors on Dan Patrick. He’s a horrible person, a serial liar, a narcissistic egotist who puts his own interests before all others, and is exactly the sort of person that should never be put in a position of authority. There’s plenty of places to go other than this.
I want to be clear that while I deplore what happened to Dan Patrick, I feel no sympathy for him, nor do I share the outrage that his sycophants are currently spewing. One reason for this is that we’ve seen this movie before, and as the Observer reminds us, there was a lot less outrage from those folks that time.
It’s good to see Patrick supporters—and Republican state senators—speaking out about the stigma of mental illness, and the unfairness of this as an attack line in a campaign. But for those of us with memories that reach back to November, it’s a bit odd, because of what many conservatives in the state were saying about state Sen. Wendy Davis.
In 1996, Davis sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for defamation, after she lost an election. (It was ultimately dismissed.) As one frequently does when one seeks damages in the course of a civil lawsuit, she claimed to have suffered “emotional distress” and “continuing damages to her mental health.” That second phrase—the one that would get all the attention—was used once.
Compare this to Patrick’s situation: In 1987, Patrick sued a Houston Press gossip columnist for libel, after an altercation at a sports bar. (It was also ultimately dismissed, “with prejudice.”) In the course of this lawsuit it is revealed that Patrick has had to contend seriously with mental health issues for much of the decade, and was briefly, and voluntarily, committed to a psychiatric center.
So: both unsuccessfully sued the press, both endured revelations of mental anguish. The only real difference is that Patrick’s mental health troubles would seem, on the available evidence, to be much more substantial and long-lasting. Many conservatives in the state are rallying around Patrick: How did they treat Davis when her (very minor) admission was written up last November by noted slug pundit Eric Erickson?
Three guesses how that went. Go see for yourself if you can’t figure it out. Erica Greider has more.