by Max Brantley
McDaniel was calm, apologetic, non-defensive and his voice trembled a time or two as he talked about the shame of the episode and his gratefulness to his wife, Bobbi. She was present, but not on the podium with him, something he said he wouldn't subject her to.
He took the podium precisely at 11 a.m. and read this prepared statement.
Key point: "There is no other shoe to drop."
In reporter questioning, McDaniel reitered his statement that he'd no relationships with other women during his time as attorney general. From the statement:
"I want to use this morning to be clear about what I have done wrong, and equally clear about what I have not done wrong. I continue to hear that rumors are swirling about whether some other shoe will drop. There is no other shoe to drop. There are no other women. No litigation was ever compromised. No rules of professional conduct were violated. No state resources, dollars or personnel were used for personal purposes. I made a personal mistake, for which I have taken and continue to take responsibility, but it had no impact on my job or the work done by the very competent and capable staff of the attorney general's office."
UPDATE: Above is the video of his statement. You can go to the jump for video of his Q&A session. Among the highlights:
* THE REVEAL: McDaniel said that when the Arkansas Times first called him about a filing in Garland Circuit Court raising the question of a possible extramarital affair, he decided within the hour to acknowledge it because it inevitably was to be a public issue. He said he was not motivated by the potential for disclosure of text messages between him and Andi Davis. Davis' phone records are in possession of law enforcement agencies investigating the killing of Maxwell Anderson at Davis' Garland County home last February. No charges have been filed. Davis has told investigators that her brother shot Anderson in self-defense after Anderson attack Davis with a golf club. McDaniel said he had no record of text messages between him and Davis. He acknowledged that they had communicated that way, but said he wouldn't reveal them if he had them. At some point, her phone records will be released when the prosecutor closes the file on that investigation, either with a prosecution or a decision not to file charges. McDaniel emphasized neither he nor his office had any connection with that case and he had never communicated with anyone about it.
* THE REACTION: McDaniel said he'd "underestimated other people's generosity and graciousness and willingness to forgive."
* THE 2014 RACE AND VOTERS: "I feel good about my campaign," he said. He said the news conference was part of earning voters' trust back, but ultimately they'd have to decide whether to accept his explanation and apology. "The most you can do is tell the truth and be strong and humbly ask forgiveness of your fellow man."
* THE ROMANCE: McDaniel said he wouldn't go into personal details of the affair with Davis. He said they'd met in 2010, had contact in 2011, "some of which was inappropriate," but said they'd been in each other's presence "less than a half-dozen times.
* THE OFFICIAL RECORD: McDaniel said his office had found only five cases in which his office and Davis had been on opposing sides and all had concluded in the state's favor. He said his staff, which did the work, had no knowledge of his relationship and thus it had no bearing on the office's work. He said he had no recollection of a capital case in Polk County in which Davis represented the defendant, Randy Leach. He was convicted. Davis is no longer his attorney, but her representation covered the time when McDaniel was seeing her. I asked if they had discussed the case.
* THE VOTER RESULTS: How can voters be sure McDaniel will never stray again, one reporter asked. "This has been the most painful experience of my life that I can recall," McDaniel said. "Truthfully, I have never seen such grace and dignity and compassion from another person in my life than from Bobbi. Grace is the unmerited favor of God and her love and forgiveness, at least in this instance, have been unmerited. And she's been free with it." McDaniel said nobody had abandoned support of his gubernatorial race, but added he was "more concerned with being her husband than being governor." He said he'd tell voters "this is never going to be a concern in my life again."
It was a full and humble hangout. Hard to imagine how any but the strongest McDaniel opponents couldn't have some empathy for his embarrassing moment today, even if he was responsible for its creation. Voters have forgiven many a straying politician before. McDaniel himself referenced the fallibility of man, a bedrock belief of the Christian tradition. "I made a mistake," he said. "But no one has ever gone without a lapse in character or judgment at some point. During this difficult time I am trying to demonstrate my character is also about responsibility and accountability."
In time — and much remains before the 2014 primary — the key personal issue, apart from all the usual political issues, will be whether subsequent events disturb McDaniel's assertion that there are no other "shoes" and no instance in which his public office was compromised by his personal life. Completion of the Hot Springs homicide investigation, with its potential for release of intimate text messages to and from him, also guarantees at least one more round of headlines.
1) Andi Davis will not have a statement on McDaniel's news conference.
2) Bud Jackson, a spokesman for Bill Halter, likely Democratic gubernatorial opponent, said:
"Bill Halter's decision about a gubernatorial campaign has nothing to do with the past, present or future problems of another candidate. Those are for Arkansans to judge. The voters' decision should be based on who has the ideas, experience, values and character to lead the state."
Andi Davis has sent a note to Michael Cook.
My reaction is disappointment. It is one thing to make a mistake and another to keep making it. I feel hamstrung by the legal complexities that exist in my life at this juncture as they prevent me from speaking freely.
I understand that I made the choices and decisions that led me to where I stand today. Being patient and waiting for the prudent time to release my truth is extremely taxing. I am frustrated that the press release did not provide anyone involved with the ability to relax and move on in a productive manner. Any and all statements of substance and greater specificity will be released through my attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig.
She said similar to David Goins of Fox 16:
"I'm disappointed. I'm frustrated with the form, manner and content presented by Dustin."
I guess I can fairly add now, though I took the remark not for attribution, that Davis also used the word "disappointment" when she referred me to her attorney.
UPDATE III: Davis elaborates to Cook on her unhappiness. She confirms the subject of questions I asked McDaniel at the news conference, about the text messages between him and Davis now in hands of investigators in Garland County, which are to come out inevitably. She said there are some 500 messages. She seems to indicate there was more to her relationship with McDaniel than he indicated, but she made no specific allegations.
Photo taken of gathering before McDaniel arrived: