In a fawning puff piece on Texas gubernatorial candidate Wemdy Davis on NBC's January 15 Today, correspondent Maria Shriver celebrated the liberal abortion heroine as an "overnight sensation" whose "personal story" has "resonated across this country." The only problem with the gushing profile that followed was that key facts and details of Davis's life were either left out or just untrue.
In an article for The Dallas Morning News, senior political writer Wayne Slater, hardly a conservative, pointed out several glaring inaccuracies in the account put forward by Davis in Shiver's report.
In her January 15 piece, Shriver declared: "Davis grew up poor and at the age of 18 found herself pregnant and married. By 19, she was getting divorced and living in a mobile home park."
In his fact-check, Slater pointed out: "Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter."
Shriver described how Davis "attended Tarrant County Community College near Fort Worth while working two jobs to keep food on the table." Davis proclaimed: "I knew I was poor because of the struggles that I and my young daughter Amber were experiencing. I was having a really hard time making ends meet, paying for my child care, paying for a car payment, and making sure that I kept the lights turned on, sometimes didn't happen."
Slater explained how Davis married her second husband at age 24:
A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston....When she was accepted to Harvard Law School, Jeff Davis cashed in his 401(k) account and eventually took out a loan to pay for her final year there. "I was making really good money then, well over six figures," he said.
Shriver only vaguely described that time in Davis's life: "Davis married again for a time and had her second daughter Drew. Life was looking up and she set her sights on one of the most prestigious law schools in the country."
Slater detailed how the marriage ended:
Over time, the Davis's marriage was strained. In November 2003, Wendy Davis moved out. Jeff Davis said that was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. 'It was ironic,' he said. 'I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left'....In his initial divorce filing, Jeff Davis said the marriage had failed, citing adultery on her part and conflicts that the couple could not overcome. The final court decree makes no mention of infidelity, granting the divorce solely "on the ground of insupportability."
Shriver glossed over all of these key points in order to maintain the positive campaign narrative Davis was putting forward: "It has been a long, hard road for Wendy Davis to have her voice heard. A journey she says she's very proud of, but one she fears that other women may not be able to follow."
In his report, Slater noted: "Davis is presenting her story on websites, interviews, speeches and campaign videos. Last week, NBC's Today show became the latest media outlet to showcase the story of Davis' difficult early years in a flattering piece. Using her story to inspire new voters, particularly women, youths and minorities, is a key part of the campaign's strategy to overcome the state’s heavy Republican bent."
Not only has NBC failed to offer any correction to Shriver's promotional profile of Davis, an MSNBC.com article actually ranted: "Right pounces on news that Wendy Davis embellished life story."
That being very much in line with the talking points coming out of Davis's campaign.