When a politician -- male or female, liberal or conservative -- writes a memoir*, anything therein is fair game for the news media and his or her opponents, particularly when claims made therein are false or misleading. But to the gang at MSNBC, Republican criticism of the network's anointed golden girl Wendy Davis is beyond the pale.
"Right attacks Wendy Davis," screams the top msnbc.com headline this afternoon. Clicking that teaser headline takes the reader to Zachary Roth's "Right pounces on news that Wendy Davis embellished life story." Roth went on to practically script a melodrama where Davis is the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks by those dastardly, vile Texas Republicans (emphasis mine):
Since her historic filibuster against anti-choice legislation last summer, Wendy Davis has vaulted from a little-known Texas state lawmaker to a bona fide national progressive star. And her long-shot bid for governor this year in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide in nearly two decades started to look a little less long-shot with the news last week that she’d raised over $12 million.
Conservatives have looked in vain for ways to take Davis down (one idea, calling her “Abortion Barbie,” pretty much blew up in their faces). Now at last, Davis’ opponents think they’ve hit pay-dirt, seizing on a lengthy Dallas Morning News report that found Davis has been inaccurate or misleading in recounting some of the details of her personal history. But the response from some on the right suggests that for them, Davis’ real transgressions may lie elsewhere.
It seems that Davis’ real sin isn’t playing fast and loose with her biography. It’s making life choices they disagree with—including the decision, as a mother, to prioritize her career. And it’s hard to imagine those choices generating criticism were Wendy Davis a man.
Davis has said she was a divorced teenage mother who, through hard work and perseverance, went from living in a mobile home to Harvard Law School. That up-by-the-bootstraps persona has been a central part of Davis’ appeal.
But according to the paper, Davis was divorced at 21, not 19, and lived in a mobile home only for a few months. Later, Davis’ second husband, Jeff Davis, helped her pay for her final two years of college and for Harvard Law.
“My language should be tighter,” Davis acknowledged to the DMN. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”
But conservatives aren’t letting her get off that easy.
Roth then went on to quote various tweets by conservatives such as Matt Drudge, Erick Erickson, Brit Hume, and Ben Shapiro to back up his claim. It was the latter's snark that particularly offended Roth:
It’s no surprise that conservatives are jumping on the story. But some are going further—they’re using the DMN report to attack Davis for being a bad mother.
“Wendy Davis apparently abandoned her children, had her husband foot her bills, and divorced after adultery accusations,” tweeted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, sarcastically adding the hashtag “FeministHero.”
That’s a reference to the story’s account that Davis’ kids, then 8 and 2, stayed with Jeff Davis in Fort Worth while she went to Harvard Law. The story also notes that Jeff Davis’ initial divorce filing cited adultery, but adds: “The final court decree makes no mention of infidelity, granting the divorce solely “on the ground of insupportability.”
That’s just one of hundreds of anti-Davis tweets in a similar vein, several from prominent conservatives like Shapiro.
“I cheated on and left the guy who cashed out his 401(k) to put me through college and law school,” wrote conservative pundit David Freddoso, explaining how he thinks Davis could more accurately present her life story.
There's a certain bite to those tweets, to be sure, but if Twitter were around in say 2004, there's little doubt that prominnt liberal Democratic bloggers and pundits would not have jumped in with glee to mock Barack Obama opponent and Republican Senate hopeful Jack Ryan for unsavory details about his private life which he'd have rather stayed, well, private.
Ryan, you may recall, dropped out of the Senate race after the Chicago Tribune successfully got a judge to unseal California divorce/child custody proceedings in which his ex-wife had alleged that Ryan had asked her to perform sex acts on him while at various sex clubs. Both parties in that case, Mr. Ryan and his ex-wife actress Jeri Ryan had urged the court to not unseal those records out of concern for their son, Alex.
Both Ms. Davis's inaccuracies/faulty claims and what transpired in reality, uncolored by Davis's spin, are relevant information for Texas voters to have and with which to judge Ms. Davis's suitability to be governor of the State of Texas. The folks at MSNBC.com obviously know that, but their task is not that of journalists seeking a full fleshing out of the truth but rather partisans hoping to help the Fort Worth Democrat turn this incident into fundraising fodder by playing, once again, the victim.
* UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Ms. Davis is at work writing her memoir, slated for publication in the fall prior to the election. At issue here is Ms. Davis's embellished biography as rendered in speeches on the campaign trail and with media outlets.
P.S.: The Dallas Morning News item that started this all was penned by none other than Wayne Slater, who is, to be charitable, a left-of-center guy.