Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' daughters have responded to right-wing smears against their mother, defending her as a loving, hardworking parent who took care of them while advancing her career.
Right-wing media, and in particular Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, have repeatedly attempted to smear Davis and suggest she is unfit for public office, in part by portraying her as an unstable and unreliable mother who abandoned her children and left her "sugar daddy" husband when she no longer needed his money.
Davis's daughters responded to these baseless, sexist attacks in open letters, published in full by Gawker. The daughters noted that their mother shared their care equally with their father, and took care of them even while she was attending Harvard Law as a full-time student (emphasis added):
My name is Dru Davis and I am Wendy Davis's daughter. I hate that I feel the need to write this, but I have been reading and hearing so many untrue things about my mom and I want to set the record straight. And sadly I feel the need to be crystal clear on the malicious and false charge of abandonment as nothing could be further from the truth. My mom has always shared equally in the care and custody of my sister and me.
Yes, she went to law school after my sister and I were born. We lived with her the first semester, but I had severe asthma and the weather there wasn't good for me. My parents made a decision for my sister and me to stay in Texas while my mom kept going to school. But that doesn't mean she wasn't there for us. She traveled back and forth all the time, missing so many classes so that she could be with us. Her friends were such a big help. Especially her third year, when she would only go to school two weeks out of the month and her friends would share class notes so she could try to keep up while she was home with us in Fort Worth.
My name is Amber Davis and I am Wendy Davis' oldest daughter. I have spent the past few days reading the ludicrous comments that people have shared on social media about my mother and our family. It is a shame that those who don't know us feel the need to comment on the details of our lives as if they've lived them. I have a hard time understanding how such hate and negativity can result from one person's false accusations.
I have recently heard the phrase "abandoned" quite often in the past week. That our mother "left us to be raised by our father" while she went on to pursue her education. Not only is this ridiculously unfair; it's completely untrue. Dru and I have always been her number one priority. Always. And every decision our parents made was with our best interests at heart. We had an amazing support system while she was at Harvard and she was constantly traveling back and forth from school to bewith us. I'm proud that my parents were able to make this arrangement work. People should be less concerned about who paid for what and pay more attention to the fact that she was accepted to Harvard law school, a dream she believed was unachievable.
Before releasing the letters, the daughters had appeared in one of their mother's campaign videos, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren criticized her Fox colleague Erick Erickson for what she termed his "boorish" and "disrespectful" comments about Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.
Erickson, who is a Fox contributor, has repeatedly attempted to smear Davis, demeaningly referring to her as "Abortion Barbie" and suggesting she is unfit for public office. He has gone so far as to question her "mental health," and recently attempted to portray her as an unstable and unreliable mother who left her "sugar daddy" husband when she no longer needed his money.
In a post on her blog, On The Record host Van Susteren condemned Erickson's Davis commentary, calling him a "jerk" and a "creep" who "has [a] pattern of being disrespectful to women":
This posting is not about Wendy Davis. It is not about her views. This is about a man who has pattern of being disrespectful to women:
We are a big nation with different viewpoints. We won't always agree...but a strong debate is helpful when we disagree. Sometimes if you are smart in your debate, you persuade someone who otherwise had disagreed with you.
And then there are the creeps who take cheap shots because they are too ignorant and small to engage in an important discussion. The best they can do is make themselves look really bad. No one should pay any attention to them - they are not persuasive, they are noise, and in some instances boorish and obnoxious. I suspect this guy feels that he makes himself relevant or even important if he says or tweets like this. I just roll my eyes and wonder what is going on in his head!
When I read the above tweet I thought, I wonder how proud his daughter would be of him if she knew that he tweeted insults about women.
Greta concluded by noting that while she "read someplace" that Erickson is her colleague at Fox, "He has never been on TV with [her]," and noted that she previously criticized Erickson for a sexist tirade in which he claimed on-air that men should be dominant over women and lamented an increase in the number of female breadwinners in the U.S.
Erickson has a long history of sexist remarks. He previously directed liberals to a website selling coat hangers after Texas passed restrictions on abortions, stated that "the crux of the problem" was that "some women believe they can have it all," and was widely criticized after he tweeted of the first night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, "First night of the Vagina Monologues in Charlotte going as expected." Before working at Fox, Erickson also referred to the National Organization for Women as the "NAG Gang" who were "angry in their unibrows," described feminists as humorless women "too ugly to get a date," and called Michelle Obama "a Marxist harpy."
UPDATE: Erickson responded to Van Susteren in a post on RedState, thanking her for the "diatribe" against him and claiming that if "someone is offended by me, thinks me creepy, or thinks me a jerk is fine with me as it continues to force them to talk about Wendy Davis, defender of the right to tear children apart":
I appreciate Greta focusing on my tweets and find it instructive she chose specifically to not make it about Wendy Davis. Wendy Davis is a one issue wonder heralded by the press because she is a high priestess of the secular religion's sacred sacrament -- slaughtering children on the altar of Moloch. That Greta Van Susteren is offended by me, thinks me creepy and a jerk, and thinks I should not be listened to is of no harm or consequence to me.
I have helped define Wendy Davis by a moniker that sticks, describes, and makes her the butt of jokes, while drawing out the shrill hysterics of her supporters. And there'd be more supporters of hers except for her and her supporters declaring open season on people under 40 weeks of age.
Thank you Greta very much for writing this post and shedding more light on Wendy Davis by making her campaign about me. I do sincerely appreciate the exposure that it might, even indirectly, expose the Cult of Death's latest champion.
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz reneged on his promise to cover a new biography offering a harsh critique of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes on Fox's media show, #MediaBuzz.
On the January 19 edition of #MediaBuzz, Kurtz said he would cover the newly released book, New York writer Gabriel Sherman's The Loudest Voice In The Room, on the following week's show, saying:
First, a programming note. A biography of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes by a New York Magazine reporter has been getting plenty of media attention. We will talk about it, on next week's show.
But Kurtz did not report on the book as promised during his January 26 show, as Variety noted. Segments featured on the show instead included discussions of Glenn Beck's time at Fox News, media coverage of Wendy Davis' campaign for Texas governor, and the Chris Christie bridge scandal.
Fox News has attempted to discredit the Loudest Voice for more than a year, attacking Sherman personally and reportedly firing a top Fox executive for leaking information to the author. Ailes also cooperated with conservative journalist Zev Chafets' 2013 biography Roger Ailes, Off Camera, reportedly "because he was eager to preempt Sherman's version with a more favorable and hopefully sympathetic account of his legacy."
A review of Sherman's book found that Fox was right to be worried; unlike Off Camera, Sherman's biography revealed an unflattering portrait of Ailes as a vindictive, paranoid partisan who uses his cable news network as a clearinghouse for Republican propaganda.
Media Matters has previously found that Kurtz has been giving his employer a pass since taking the position as Fox's media analyst last year. An analysis of Kurtz's television appearances and online columns during his first two months on the job found that he almost entirely avoided criticizing Fox News, including ignoring controversies related to the network that had been widely covered elsewhere.
Variety's Brian Lowry noted that Kurtz's failure to report on Sherman's Ailes biography once again calls his credibility into question:
For in-house media critics to have any credibility, they have to be willing to at least occasionally explore the shortcomings of their employers. And given all the coverage regarding Ailes' concern regarding the book and his alleged campaign against the author, Kurtz looked caught between the proverbial rock and hard place -- so much so that ignoring the book would have been preferable to creating the appearance of acting as Ailes' surrogate.
Nevertheless, to promise coverage -- as Kurtz did on air at the close of last week's program -- and then renege creates an impression of Kurtz as Ailes' lap dog. And it's not like there weren't ways to approach Sherman's biography in a skeptical manner, especially after New York Times critic Janet Maslin panned the book, providing some cover from one of the bastions of liberal media Fox News so regularly derides.
Fox News is now suggesting that minor contradictions in Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' life story constitute a more important political "scandal" than accusations of corruption and political retribution by NJ Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott accused "op-eds and pundits [for] tearing into [Christie's] character," while ignoring the "political scandal in Texas." This scandal, according to Scott, was that Davis' life story had "holes" in it, partly because she didn't pull "herself up by her stilettos" and instead relied on some financial help from her second husband in order to attend law school:
Scott: The interesting thing about Wendy Davis is this story that has propelled her to state-wide stardom, maybe even national stardom. She says she was married at 19, teenage mother, divorced, lived in a trailer, made it through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School, and now she is where she is today, a state senator and maybe the next governor of Texas. The problem is, there are some holes in that story.
The suggestion that she pulled herself up by her stilettos and made it through Harvard Law School doesn't exactly jive with the fact that her husband, her then-husband, paid for it all, then as soon as it's all paid for, she left him, and he got custody of the two girls.
Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor, argued during the segment and in a Washington Examiner piece that Christie's record as governor of New Jersey was being scrutinized by media "because he might be a successful presidential candidate," and that Davis should come under similar media scrutiny for these details of her life because her run for governor could potentially "turn Texas blue," a move which would have national significance.
But the reason to scrutinize Christie's record is not that he might run for president. It's that he has been accused of corruption and petty political retribution in his position as the current governor of New Jersey. At no point during the segment did either Scott or Barone delve into the details of "Chris Christie's problems," but they are far more than minor contradictions in a timeline of life events.
Christie has admitted that his administration caused a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, in what is alleged to have been political payback against a local mayor. Though the governor claimed he was unaware of his staff's actions, and later removed two top aides, his administration was subsequently accused by a different mayor of holding Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage for political reasons.
There are at least three separate legal investigations examining the accusations launched against the Christie administration.
In contrast, Davis is not currently under investigation for possibly abusing the power of her office as state senator. There are some small, legitimate questions about her presentation of her life story, but those questions have been blown out of proportion by conservative media, who have launched an absurd and often sexist campaign against her. Right-wing radio hosts and Fox contributors have implied she is an unstable and unreliable mother, unfit for public office, and have attacked her for defying gender norms by leaving her spouse to pursue her career (a move many male politicians have made, with little media fanfare).
Scott's sexist joke about Davis' stilettos is just the latest example of these demeaning attacks, and furthers the network's desperate attempt to bury the Christie scandal by deflecting attention to unrelated stories.
Fox has previously attempted to compare Christie's scandal to the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and to the IRS scandal, in which bureaucrats largely based in Cincinnati allegedly devoted inappropriate scrutiny to conservative groups. The network also devoted less than 15 minutes of coverage to Christie on the day the scandal broke, and mentioned the revelations about Hurricane relief only once the day they emerged.
If you are a woman, you no longer have the same rights you had 41 years ago.
January 22 is the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, in which the court ruled that women have a constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.
But in the intervening decades, that right has largely disappeared, a process helped by media outlets that have misinformed on these safe and legal health procedures.
Thanks to Supreme Court rulings that came after Roe, states are now free to regulate and restrict abortion so long as new laws do not impose an "undue burden" on a woman's right to choose. But state legislatures are currently testing what qualifies as an undue burden, and in 2013 alone 70 different anti-choice restrictions were adopted in 22 states across the U.S. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, more abortion restrictions have been enacted in the past three years than in the entire previous decade.
In December, Ian Millhiser and Tara Culp-Ressler published a thoughtful piece about this process at ThinkProgress headlined, "The Greatest Trick The Supreme Court Ever Pulled Was Convincing The World Roe v. Wade Still Exists." They argued that while a woman's right to choose an abortion is still ostensibly covered by the constitution, the reality is that right is increasingly restricted to just wealthy women who happen to live in (or are able to travel to) one of the few states that will still permit them the opportunity to exercise that right.
This sustained attack on women's rights is fast becoming a key issue for politicians in the 2014 midterms. But the media have also played a sizeable role in this process, contributing to the vanishing power of Roe by allowing anti-choicers to control the conversation.
Right-wing media are making sexist and outrageous claims in an attempt to smear Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis over her divorces.
The Dallas Morning News reported January 18th that Davis had been 21, not 19, by the time she got a divorce, a seemingly-minor contradiction to previous statements in which she had described herself as a teenage-single mother. In a statement to Buzzfeed, Davis explained that she had been separated from her first husband "on [her] way to a divorce" by 19, living alone with her daughter in a trailer for a time.
Exactly how young Davis was when she took care of her daughter on her own while facing economic hardship is a small, but understandable, question. Conservative media, however, are blowing the legitimate questions about Davis' backstory out of proportion while making sexist attacks on Davis' character and implying she is not fit for public office.
On January 20, Rush Limbaugh called Davis a "babe" and a "genuine head case," and claimed the new details proved she needed a man to be successful, as her second husband helped pay for her law school. Limbaugh concluded that her life story was full of "fraud and deceit ... her entire biography has been embellished and falsified by her."
Radio host Mark Levin also suggested that Davis was a "good Democrat gubernatorial candidate" because she is a "liar" and because there were "allegations -- I stress, allegations -- of adultery."
In two posts on his blog, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson used the divorce in an attempt to portray Davis as an unstable and unreliable mother, with two posts headlined, "Documents Show A Texas Court Ordered Wendy Davis to Stay Away From Drugs and Alcohol" and "Wendy Davis' Ex Asked a Court to Order Her Not to Use Drugs Before Seeing Her Kids."
But Erickson conveniently ignored that a temporary restraining order, or TRO, is common practice in divorce cases involving children, and can include restrictions on alcohol and drug consumption. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite effectively laid out how Davis' restraining order was typical, and an example of a petition form for the TRO is available on the Texas Law Help website, showing that drug and alcohol provisions are included on the form.
Erickson has repeatedly attempted to smear Davis, whom he demeaningly refers to as "Abortion Barbie." Last November, Erickson absurdly suggested that Davis was unfit for public office because she had claimed "mental health issues" in a 1996 lawsuit. Erickson once again showed his unfamiliarity with the law; the language he cited is required boilerplate for the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) claim Davis brought against a Texas newspaper.
These attacks on Davis are extreme, but they also follow a predictable pattern. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation has studied every female candidate for governor in the past, and found that women running for executive office often are placed on an "Ethical Pedestal," which perpetuates the myth that women are more innately honest than men -- allowing male opponents to undermine them by simply questioning their integrity:
To distract from what really matters -- the policies, priorities, and platforms of each candidate -- male opponents often strike early with attacks questioning a woman's integrity. It's a well-worn strategy.
We saw this happen in Senator Elizabeth Warren's race against then-Senator Scott Brown in 2012, when he repeatedly questioned her integrity, and we're already seeing it in State Senator Wendy Davis's race against Attorney General Greg Abbott in Texas.
Fox News has largely moved on from the developing scandals engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, even as new allegations emerge from a New Jersey mayor that the governor withheld Hurricane Sandy relief aid for political reasons. Christie's name came up only three times on Fox's January 18 programming, even as MSNBC and CNN devoted significant coverage to the new revelations.
David Brooks has a problem with single mothers.
The New York Times opinion columnist scapegoated unmarried moms for their poverty in his January 16 column, joining a chorus of media figures who have ignored basic economics to suggest that marriage is a magic-bullet solution to poverty.
Brooks claimed that "someone being rich doesn't make someone poor," arguing that discussions of income inequality have been too focused on disparities in wealth and not focused enough on the "fraying of social fabric" and the "morally fraught social and cultural roots of the problem," which he pinned in part on single motherhood (emphasis added):
There is a very strong correlation between single motherhood and low social mobility. There is a very strong correlation between high school dropout rates and low mobility. There is a strong correlation between the fraying of social fabric and low economic mobility. There is a strong correlation between de-industrialization and low social mobility. It is also true that many men, especially young men, are engaging in behaviors that damage their long-term earning prospects; much more than comparable women.
Low income is the outcome of these interrelated problems, but it is not the problem. To say it is the problem is to confuse cause and effect. To say it is the problem is to give yourself a pass from exploring the complex and morally fraught social and cultural roots of the problem. It is to give yourself permission to ignore the parts that are uncomfortable to talk about but that are really the inescapable core of the thing.
First, Brooks is wrong on the basic arithmetic of income inequality. As economist Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute has explained, "if it had not been for growing economic inequality, the poverty rate would be at or near zero today." This is because without inequality, economic growth would be shared equitably among all income levels; instead, since the 1970s, growing inequality has increased poverty, as the rich benefit more from economic growth.
Second, the "problem" of single motherhood is not that mothers aren't married; it's that significant numbers of unmarried mothers don't have access to basic support systems like childcare, paid family and medical leave, and family planning -- necessary social supports that Brooks dismisses in favor of fearmongering about "fraying of social fabric."
The recently released Shriver Report on women's economic realities in America found that economic policies and programs that improve access to education and child care can do more to help decrease economic hardship for women than marriage ever could. Karen Kornbluh, former ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, also noted that childcare, after-school programs, and health care reform would provide single mothers the needed flexibility to work more secure and economically beneficial jobs.
If poverty were simply an effect of unmarried parenthood, it would seem logical that both single mothers and fathers would face similar experiences. But the Shriver Report also found that single mothers spend more on housing than single fathers, and most likely work minimum-wage jobs. Poverty, and income inequality, are the results of structural economic problems, which disproportionally affect women -- not the other way around.
(Image: Shriver Report, via Feministing)
Media figures who insist that single mothers are to blame for their own poverty ignore these economic realities, and distract from the conversation we should be having: that all families, regardless of structure, need access to basic social goods like equal pay, family planning, and childcare; benefits which economists have shown would improve the economy and reduce poverty for everyone.
The day a major scandal broke involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Fox News devoted scant coverage to the developing story. On January 8, Fox devoted less than 15 minutes to the New Jersey bridge closure scandal, compared to more than two hours each on CNN and MSNBC.
Things continue to get worse for 60 Minutes' already retracted Benghazi report and its discredited "eyewitness" Dylan Davies. Gawker's J.K. Trotter reports that CBS News and Simon & Shuster may have failed to properly vet significant "discrepancies" in Davies' accounts of his military background.
60 Minutes' October 27, 2013, segment about the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, collapsed after it was revealed that Davies had given conflicting accounts of his actions that night. CBS News eventually pulled the segment and released a "journalistic review" finding that the report was "deficient in several respects" and "did not sufficiently vet Davies' account of his own actions and whereabouts that night." Correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan were put on a leave of absence.
Two days after the 60 Minutes report aired, Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions -- which is owned by CBS Corporation, a blatant conflict of interest -- released The Embassy House under the Davies pseudonym Morgan Jones. The book was pulled from shelves shortly after CBS retracted its segment, but a number of inconsistencies in the book have raised questions about whether Davies' publishers and CBS News adequately vetted Davies before promoting his dubious story.
Gawker's J.K. Trotter has uncovered further discrepancies in Davies' account, this time related to claims about his military service. Trotter notes that while Simon & Schuster highlight the rank of "Sergeant Morgan Jones," "there is zero evidence Davies obtained the rank of sergeant in the British Army." Furthermore, "Davies and his editors seem to disagree about the length of his military service." During the book Davies claims to have served for fourteen years, but the book's jacket and website both say he served for only twelve -- "So either Davies is lying about his enlistment date, or Threshold Editions is lying about their own author."
Trotter also revealed that no one at Threshold Editions or 60 Minutes appears to have verified Davies' claim that he worked on the security detail of U.S. Major General James T. Conway. According to Conway, no one at either organization contacted him to verify Davies' account, despite Conway's importance to Davies' personal narrative:
At several points in the book, Davies recounts leading a security detail as a private contractor in Afghanistan for the (now retired) commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Major General James T. Conway.
But when contacted by Gawker, Conway couldn't verify Davies' story. "[His] name is vaguely familiar but [I] cannot put a face with it," he wrote in an email. "That is not to say his claim is not true."
Nobody at Threshold Editions--or 60 Minutes--contacted Conway to determine whether Davies' claims checked out.
"You are the first person to contact me about any of this," Conway told Gawker.
This is doubly notable because his book's marketing apparatus--including, most of all, 60 Minutes--depended on Davies' image as a dedicated, experienced, well-regarded security professional. "He's been helping to keep U.S. diplomats and military leaders safe for the last decade," is how Logan introduced him. His proximity to Conway earned a special mention in Davies' jacket biography.
Fact-checking is essentially non-existent in the book publishing world, meaning there are few safe guards in place to prevent such failure. Threshold Editions did not respond to Media Matters' previous requests for comment regarding an explanation of its procedures. Threshold representatives declined to comment to Gawker.
But 60 Minutes should have vetted Davies more thoroughly before featuring him in their segment, and their flagrant disregard for basic journalistic standards and ethics helped earned CBS News the distinction as Media Matters' 2013 Misinformer of the Year.
Gawker and Trotter, on the other hand, seem to be doing the investigative research into Davies' background that CBS News should have done before ever putting him on air.