The Media’s Wendy Davis Bias
Her gaffes don’t get the attention accorded other politicians’ missteps.


Andrew Stiles

Wendy Davis had a feisty response to a Dallas Morning News article this week that exposed factual inaccuracies in the up-by-her-bootstraps narrative she’d told about being a single mother.

Anyone who questions her life story, Davis said in a statement, clearly “hasn’t walked a day in my shoes” and, she later tweeted, is “completely out of touch  with the struggles” Texans face.

Abbott, her likely opponent in this year’s gubernatorial election is a paraplegic who has been confined to a wheelchair for nearly three decades after a falling oak tree crushed his spine while he was out for a jog.

Davis gaffed. In a statement that was presumably vetted by multiple staffers, her campaign managed to include the one phrase that, given the circumstances, should be avoided at all costs — an unfortunate mistake.

At least, that is the more charitable explanation Davis and her campaign can fully expect to be granted, in the unlikely event that anyone outside the conservative media deems it newsworthy. And there’s nothing particularly menacing or conspiratorial about that — it was only a gaffe.

However, many conservatives would argue a Republican politician in similar circumstances would not be let off the hook so easily. As a Democrat and darling of the Left, Davis can rest assured that media outlets won’t wonder aloud whether her apparent gaffe is indicative of callous indifference toward the disabled.

No one will question why Davis, in a subsequent campaign letter, continued her ill-phrased attack on Abbott, saying he would try to “slam the doors I walked through and pull up the ladders I was lucky to be able to climb.” Or ask why her liberal defenders echo these “coded” attacks by describing Davis as someone who “has repeatedly shown that she stands up against those who don’t think she deserves to succeed.” What else, after all, could explain the obsession with her pink running shoes? Why revel in this perverse celebration of her able-bodiedness?

As ridiculous as that sounds, consider the media’s treatment of Mitt Romney’s infamous gaffes. His “binders full of women” comment wasn’t merely awkward phrasing on the candidate’s part, it was much more significant than that. It meant something. As The Atlantic helpfully explained: “Romney’s turn of phrase wasn’t just a Tumblr waiting to be born, it was an insight into his views on the importance of promoting women.” Romney had “confirmed many people’s worst fears” about his attitudes toward women, the Guardian claimed. “It wasn’t just a gaffe: it was a Freudian slip, a filibuster and a falsehood.”

There was also his tactless remark about his lack of concern for the “very poor,” which was instantly stripped of its context and replayed in countless Obama attack ads. Pundits lined up to deconstruct (or un-gaffe) the gaffe. “[Romney] has claimed that he didn’t mean what he seemed to mean, and that his words were taken out of context,” Paul Krugman wrote. “But he quite clearly did mean what he said.” Andrew Riggio of Yahoo! News agreed. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking Romney just chose his words poorly,” Riggio warned. “His record and platform show his loyalty lies with his ultra-rich cronies and massive corporations — not with regular folks. It was already clear Romney wasn’t concerned with the poor.”

Wendy Davis can rest assured knowing that the media will treat her as it has Joe Biden, whose innumerable gaffes are consistently shrugged off as “Joe being Joe.” But it’s hard to imagine the media being so forgiving of a Republican politician who frequently mixes up the names of senators and foreign countries, who described his opponent as “the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” and who once told an Indian-American supporter that, in Biden’s home state of Delaware, “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Would the media be similarly amused at the thought of Greek diners being greeted by “Ted Cruzopoulos”? Probably not.

Biden, like Davis, hasn’t always been factually accurate when describing his past. But he did face a fair amount of criticism during his bid for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, and ultimately dropped his bid. Davis, on the other, should be just fine. She’s running against a Republican.

— Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online.

Meme Watch: Wendy Davis
Recent revelations that Texas politician and pro-abortion celebrity Wendy Davis fudged parts of her biography drew fire from critics who lambasted both Davis and the mainstream media for failing to dig into her past until now. Here’s a look at some Twitter commentary, illustrated by NR.
“Wendy Davis needs a man like a fish needs a rich bicycle that will pay its way through fish law school and take full custody of its spawn.” (@exjon)
“Wendy Davis Feminism: Stand By Your Man Until the Bills Are Paid” (@NolteNC)
”Blurred lines is a Robin Thicke song. It is not interchangeable with "lie." (@DLoesch)
“Hired Wendy Davis PR firm to redo my bio. Turns out I was orphaned. Then reform school, migrant worker. Very inspiring.” (@patsajak)
“So Abortion Barbie had a Sugar Daddy Ken. No exactly the bio she claimed.” (@EWErickson)
“Toots, no one is to blame but YOU and YOUR OWN lies for political gain. Here's the Cliffnote's version: You. Are. Insane.” (@LilMissRightie)
“@WendydavisTexas stands behind every word of her life story, says her spokesperson, Manti T'eo's girlfriend.” (@SooperMexican)
“Next, Wendy Davis will claim she bought her pink tennis shoes from a 1/32nd-Cherokee friend named T-Bone." (@exjon)
“Wendy Davis should really chat with Liz Warren about how to fabricate life stories.” (@guypbenson)
“Wendy Davis should just pack up and move to Massachusetts right away. The voters here love Harvard chicks who are complete frauds.” (@LADowd)
“Seems Obama and #WendyDavis are cut from the same "rewrite your past and embellish your life" to get elected cloth.” (@pambesteder)
“Amazing in all the Wendy Davis interviews by serious journalists, only now basic facts of her bio coming out” (@stuartpstevens)
“Hi MSM! So, if Sarah Palin did what Wendy Davis did, would that make it news? #caring” (@KurtSchlichter)
“Marco Rubio got second hand info wrong about his parents = OMG!!! SCANDALOUS!!! Wendy Davis lies about her life = Meh.
“If her Texas campaign flops, Wendy Davis has a future as chief diary consultant for the mayor of Hoboken.” (@Doc_0)
“Whoa. Wendy Davis had a boyfriend named Frank Underwood?” (@blakehounshell)
“I await Wendy Davis's lawsuit against the Dallas Morning News claiming it harmed her mental health by revealing her lies.” (@EWErickson)
“Waiting for Wendy Davis to turn "Dallas Morning Newsed" into a verb like "Swift Boated." (@JonahNRO)
“Wendy Davis: She didn't build that. She didn't get there on her own. (But really guys, Obama was right on this one)” (@KatiePavlich)
“Don't worry Democrats, there's still time for Wendy Davis to abort her campaign. And she'd be okay with it in the abstract.” (@EWErickson)
“This reminds me of the time Greg Abbott didn't make his wife pay his way thru law school then didn't dump her & his kids.” (@exjon)
FOOT IN MOUTH: Davis compounded her troubles with an ill-considered reference to her opponent in the Texas governor’s race, whom she accused of being involved in the story and also of not walking “a day in my shoes.” Greg Abbott is paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.
“Wendy Davis out Joe-Bidened Joe Biden with that whole "hasn't walked a mile in my shoes" dig.” (@maxjkleber)
“Is @WendyDavisTexas really Joe Biden's younger self in drag? She just keeps digging her hole deeper. #WalkInMyShoes #AbortionBarbie” (@StarCoreOne02)
“Stories of struggle? Looks like @WendyDavisTexas struggles with the truth.” (@TXTrendyChick)
“So the Wendy Davis line will be that her rival, the paraplegic, has lived a life of privilege and ease?” (@jimgeraghty)
#WendyDavisStruggles: The Davis campaign tried to fight back, accusing conservative opponents of orchestrating the disclosures and her critics of sexist motives. But her attempt to elicit sympathy with the #WendyDavisStruggles hashtag only fueled the Twitter-storm. As @amylutz4 put it: “#WendyDavisStruggles is the new #FirstWorldProblems.”
“#WendyDavisStruggles with telling the truth” (@LizardStomp)
“#WendyDavisStruggles all the effort she had to put in finding a man to pay for kids and schooling” (@jensan1332)
“#WendyDavisStruggles "Abortions sure are expensive. That's okay! I'll get my husband to pay for it, then I'll divorce him. Easypeasy." (@Cyntroe)
“These aren't even MANOLOS! YOU walk a mile in them." #WendyDavisStruggles (@ChrisBarnhart)
“#WendyDavisStruggles What shade of pink lipstick works best with these shoes?” (@gapo67)
“What is this? Tap water??? GET ME EVIAN!” (@JayCaruso)
“We are NOT drinking any Merlot! #WendyDavisStruggles” (@JayCaruso)
“I said NO whip in my White Chocolate Mocha!! #WendyDavisStruggles” (@dthompson5150)
“#WendyDavisStruggles being late for her Botox appointment because of waiting in line for a mammogram at Planned Parenthood” (@idideat4414505)
“You don't know the pain of going to college while hoping your rich husband got the kids to school on time. #WendyDavisStruggles” (@EEElverhoy)
“Having to kiss babies on the campaign trail.. #WendyDavisStruggles” (@gigg423)
“Is part of #WendyDavisStruggles that her campaign is in free fall from being a liar?” (@garygramscom)
Updated: Jan. 22, 2014