Who Is Behind the New, More Contrite Craig Watkins?

As Bethany mentioned in Leading Off this morning, District Attorney Craig Watkins is backpedaling. After county auditor Virginia Porter claimed she’d brought the DA’s office evidence in early 2008 that a constable was taking kickbacks from a towing company, Watkins initially said his office hadn’t gotten the information until late 2009. Now he’s changed his tune. Here’s the statement he gave the Dallas Morning News:

“She’s telling the truth. In no way did I intend to impugn her integrity. I am certain that if the auditor says she sent the memo in February 2008, that was the case. The District Attorney’s Office didn’t have record of it until October 2009. What happens in my office is my full responsibility. The District Attorney’s Office has taken appropriate action on this information since receiving and acknowledging this memo.”

Without saying someone in his office screwed up, he’s saying someone in his office screwed up. And he’s taking responsibility for that screw-up. This is very unlike Craig Watkins. It’s what he should have said in the first place but didn’t. As a result, what should have been a one-day news story of minor significance has played out in the paper for three days, culminating with a well-written, damning editorial that reads, in part: “What’s clear is that Watkins is frittering away all the deserved attention and praise he earned for his pursuit of justice for the wrongly convicted, undoing his office’s good works in a fit of double-talk and arrogance.”

So who is behind the DA’s adjusted attitude? Do I sense the gentle ministrations of a former D Magazine managing editor turned communications director?

(So that you know: yes, of course, Eric Celeste, the communications director for the DA’s reelection campaign, remains a good friend. And, yes, of course, when we have a drink together, we talk about our jobs. But Eric is very careful about what he says about his. I wrote the above without any inside knowledge of how the last three days have unfolded. Just speculation on my part.)

16 comments on “Who Is Behind the New, More Contrite Craig Watkins?

  1. Tim: With all due respect to Eric, I don’t think anybody had to “adjust” Watkins’ attitude. He got caught in a blatant untruth, then had zero choice but to ‘fess up.

  2. @Glenn Hunter: You’re wrong about that. He could have buried his head in the sand and tried to ignore the problem. Understand, I’m not defending the guy. I’m just saying that you’ve overlooked the number of ways this could have gone.

  3. I respectfully disagree, Tim. This auditor issue became so big, so blatant, and so public, “ignoring” it was not an option at all.

  4. Sorry Tim, but I have to agree with Glen (I know, like you care). The auditor essentially said she had dead-bang proof that the DA’s office received the letter back in 2008. Now we don’t know what that proof is, but you don’t go on record saying something like that unless you can back it up. Watkins had no choice but to backtrack or his republican opponent, not to mention the DMN and the DO, would have beat him over the head with this through the upcoming election.

  5. I’m not saying that Eric had anything to do with Watkins’ about face, but I do think that it wasn’t fear of ridicule or a drumbeat from the media that made him do it.

    If that actually worked, there’d be a story right now about Watkins bringing the constable issue to the Grand Jury.

    But he did have an out – if I’m reading the story correctly. He could’ve pointed to the AG ruling that the memo was part of an investigation, and he couldn’t divulge its contents, or confirm anything about its contents.

    It was an AG ruling he asked for.

  6. The real question is, how does this affect Tim’s decision whether or not to call any more MILF massage therapists this afternoon? A city on the edge waits….

  7. Glenn,

    You wrote: This auditor issue became so big, so blatant, and so public, “ignoring” it was not an option at all.

    Actually, ignoring problems is pretty much the standard policy of this DA. To him, this is the only option.

    Must give Eric some credit for convincing the DA that if he didn’t do something today, this would be a top story for another week or more.

    And from a PR perspective, it is better to come clean right before a holiday weekend and then let the story die over the next two days.

  8. Obviously someone is attempting to put some sense into his head. Bethany is exactly right that in the past he has quite clearly not given a rat’s patootey about public pressure – or any kind of pressure. Which hasn’t helped him one bit.

  9. Is it time to declare D Magazine cover jinx?

    First, Watkins fritters away his “American Rebel” image to that of “Dallas Good ‘Ol Boy Politician.” T

    Then, you run a good cover story on John Corona (gratis set up for his aborted mayoral campaign?), but Kay decides she wants to remain Senator.

    Come to think of it, I think Jessica Simpson lost her mojo afer she appeared on the cover a few years ago.

  10. @Glenn Hunter: Listen to what I’m saying, brother. Ignoring it was not a viable option. But it WAS an option. As was hiring a hitman to kill DMN reporter Kevin Krause. Stop arguing this point. You’re wrong.

  11. Tim,

    Were you doing the chickneck when you were writing your response to Glenn?

  12. Hmmm, most people don’t do the little reductio ad absurdum routine to try to prove their own argument.

  13. Let me tell you something about Eric’s “gentle ministrations”: they ain’t so great. Hardly something anyone would be willing to pay for — much less cause a DA to change his mind.

  14. RAB: You called Eric’s ad in the Observer and were dissatisfied, right?

  15. Also, next time you prank the local hooker line, let them get a word in would you? The humor is in hearing their ignorance not seeing how many mythical creatures you can name in 30 seconds.

  16. @Bethany:

    No, dissatisfied is too strong a descriptor. I felt that I got equivalent value for what I paid. But I didn’t pay that much, and the “ministrations” were pretty perfunctory — and somewhat less than enthusiastic.

    That said, Eric is wonderful company — he’s got a great sense of humor — so next time I would opt for drinks rather than ministrations (gentle or otherwise).

    (As an additional inducement, even at his budget rate card, drinks would be cheaper.)