NORTH LITTLE ROCK — In his first meeting with the news media since his admission last month of a past inappropriate relationship, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Tuesday there is “no other shoe” waiting to drop and pledged that there will be none in the future.
The woman McDaniel has admitted a past involvement with later criticized his comments and questioned their accuracy.
Speaking at a news conference at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock, McDaniel said, “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.”
He also insisted that his personal mistakes did not affect his office. He said he had not considered resigning as attorney general and planned to continue with his campaign for governor.
McDaniel admitted in a statement Dec. 18 that he had an inappropriate relationship with Hot Springs attorney Andrea L. “Andi” Davis, after the relationship was mentioned in filings in a custody dispute between Davis and her former husband, Frederick N. “Fred” Day, in Garland County Circuit Court.
McDaniel’s wife, Bobbi, was seated in the audience for her husband’s news conference Tuesday. She and McDaniel married in 2009. McDaniel has said that he met Davis during his 2010 re-election campaign and had “inappropriate” contact with her in 2011.
“I want to publicly apologize to my wife, Bobbi, and thank her. She’s an amazing and wonderful woman who has done nothing to deserve the pain that I have caused her, and it’s only because of her love and forgiveness that I’m able to stand here today at all,” McDaniel said Tuesday.
He said he would not ask his wife to join him on the podium because “this situation is entirely my fault.”
“I have prayed and continue to pray for God’s forgiveness and grace. I also renew today my apology to the people of Arkansas, who have important issues that demand attention rather than distractions of my creation,” he said.
Davis has represented clients in several cases in which the attorney general’s office was opposing counsel. McDaniel said no litigation was ever compromised by the relationship.
“No rules of professional conduct were violated,” he said. “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.”
McDaniel said he has been in Davis’ presence less than half a dozen times, including at public events. He declined to say how long the relationship lasted or to explain what he meant by “inappropriate contact.”
“I do not intend to get into details on something that is painful and hard enough for any marriage to endure,” he said. “I accept the responsibility for my mistake, but I believe some measure of privacy is important, even for elected officials, and certainly for families.”
Asked if he ever texted Davis and if he would release those texts, McDaniel said, “We communicated by text. I do not have a record of those texts on my personal phone, and no, I would not release them if I did. But I don’t have any specific recollection of what they would have been.”
In a statement e-mailed to the Arkansas News Bureau, Davis said, “I have now reviewed Dustin’s press conference and I am disappointed in the manner and content released. I am ready to move past my mistakes and it is impossible to do so when the information intended to clarify is misguided. I had very high hopes that the information would be accurate and that this press conference would allow all parties involved or injured to return to normalcy.”
Davis did not explain what she believed was inaccurate about McDaniel’s comments.
McDaniel has raised more than $1 million for his campaign for governor. He said that despite rumors to the contrary, no donors have asked for their money back.
“I feel good about the way that the campaign is shaping up and I like how we sit,” he said.
McDaniel was asked how supporters of his campaign can be confident that he would not commit more indiscretions as governor.
“This has been the most painful experience of my life that I can recall, and truthfully I have never seen such grace or dignity or compassion from another person in my life than from Bobbi,” he said. “Grace is the unmerited favor of God, and her love and forgiveness at least through this instance has been unmerited, and yet she’s been free with it. I’m far more concerned throughout the rest of my life with being her husband than I am being governor, although I’d like to do both. But whether I’m governor or not, this will never be a concern in my life again.”
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson is the only other announced candidate for governor. Republican Curtis Coleman has filed papers to form an exploratory committee.
Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter has said he is interested in possibly running for governor next year. Asked Tuesday for a comment, Halter spokesman Bud Jackson 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.”
Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday that McDaniel’s admission would surely cause some damage to his campaign.
“Certainly it’s not helpful to him and it certainly will have some effect. The question is how does he handle it and how much will this continue in terms of publicity?” Beebe said in an interview with Arkansas News Bureau business columnist Roby Brock that was live-streamed on talkbusiness.net.
Though McDaniel addressed the matter previously in written statements, meeting in person with the news media was probably a political necessity, said Art English, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
English said that if McDaniel had not held a news conference, “there would be the question of, ‘Why wasn’t there a more direct disavowal? Is there anything that’s being hidden?’ Coming up front with it is always, I think, probably the best personal and political strategy to take.”
English also said it was important that McDaniel’s wife attended the news conference, noting that Bill Clinton addressed accusations of infidelity during his successful 1992 presidential bid by appearing on 60 Minutes with his wife, Hillary, and demonstrating that they were “working that out together.”
“Now (McDaniel) can say, ‘Look, we’re going forward,’” English said.