Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pushed back on a New York Times report that quoted him hedging on whether he supports fellow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
In a lengthy report, the Times claimed the Republican leadership in the iconically red state shifted its focus from "trouncing" state Democrats in 2020 to intraparty scuffles over coronavirus shutdowns and the responses to voter fraud allegations.
Paxton, a rising conservative star in the Lone Star State, has been a fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump, and as the paper noted -- and led an ultimately unsuccessful multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn presidential election tallies in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump is "clearly still the leader of the [Republican] Party," Paxton told the Times, as the paper described the state's lead position in the election lawsuit as "invigorating" his political career ahead of the 2022 statewide elections when Abbott is likely to seek a third term.
The Times had reported that Paxton "seemed careful to distance himself from a governor whose legacy he once tried to emulate" -- pointing to public criticism of Abbott's since-repealed pandemic-related economic lockdown orders.
"I don't think he supports me; I don't support him," the Times quoted Paxton as saying – a comment the attorney general's office strongly disputed to Fox News.
Paxton's office told Fox News that the Times "completely butchered [Paxton's] quote" about Abbott and took the attorney general "out of context."
"Statewide officials don't endorse other statewide officials in primary contests – it's just not done in Texas," a representative for Paxton told Fox News.
"We love the governor – we support the governor."
In response to the Times, Paxton himself tweeted that the paper's recollection of the interview is the latest "fake news" from the mainstream media.
"Fake News NY Times strikes again," he wrote on Twitter.
"Let me be clear: I support Greg Abbott. He's a great governor and a great Texan."
The Times went on to report that current Texas GOP Chairman Lt. Col. Allen West -- a firebrand former U.S. congressman -- and State Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller have not dismissed potential primary bids against Abbott.
Conversely, the Austin CBS affiliate reported that George P. Bush, the Texas Land Commissioner -- and the rare member of the Bush family to formally endorse Trump in 2020 -- is eyeing a run for attorney general next year.
Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who Trump defeated in the 2016 primary.
A recent poll also showed actor Matthew McConaughey -- who has been critical of both parties -- bested Abbott in a potential head-to-head. The actor originally hails from Uvalde, in the San Antonio area.