Hayes panel defends Wendy Davis: Something happened on cable last night, something that’s very new.
Down in Texas this Sunday, the Dallas News reported a few misstatements by Wendy Davis, the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful. The report was written by Wayne Slater, a very major, very mainstream Texas reporter.
(On balance, Slater actually tilts liberal. On cable, we would say he even became a bit tribal during the last White House campaign.)
Davis has always told an inspiring story about her personal background. As it turns out, a few of her claims have perhaps been slightly inaccurate. You could also say that she has created a slightly inaccurate picture of certain parts of her life, especially the part that began with her second marriage when she was 24.
At least for us, Slater’s report in the Dallas News presented some new information and helped create a fuller picture. That said, Wendy Davis is now getting battered wherever conservative batter is sold.
Last night, something very unusual happened. Not too many years ago, it could never have happened:
On MSNBC, a panel of scribes pushed back hard in defense of Davis, Chris Hayes in the chair.
In our view, some of the pushback was a bit unbalanced. But in the not too distant past, no such pushback would have occurred, balanced or otherwise.
In March 1999, the mainstream press corps fell to the task of making Al Gore a liar. The line of attack started with three charges:
Al Gore said he invented the Internet!The first two claims would live forever, sending George Bush to the White House. (In December 1999, they would be joined by another groaner: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!)
Al Gore said he inspired Love Story!
Al Gore said he grew up on the Tennessee farm, but he really grew up in D.C.!
That third claim, concerning the Tennessee farm, resembles the claim now being made against Davis.
Al Gore said he grew up on the Tennessee farm, but he really grew up in D.C.! In reciting this scripted attack, pundits claimed that Gore had distorted the basic outlines of his personal story.
Out on the trail, Gore had made a few accurate statements about his youth on his family’s Tennessee farm. Again and again in the previous dozen years, mainstream reporters had reported the basic facts concerning Gore’s general background.
All the pundits knew these facts—but now, a war had started. As a result, major pundits pretended they didn’t understand those basic facts—the basic facts they and their colleagues had stated in the past.
This behavior was worse than what is being done in the case of Davis. But so what? Cable news rocked with the “farm chores” attack, concerning the way Gore had lied.
In the end, the “farm chores” attack was so absurd that even the press corps couldn’t sustain it. That said, Gore was hammered with this charge for months. In the process, a punishing narrative turned to stone:
Al Gore is the world’s biggest liar, just like his boss, Bill Clinton.
Not a word of pushback emerged from the career liberal world. In those days, such pushback simply wasn’t permitted.
When such pushback did occur, it was uniformly ignored. Once again, we’ll refer you to Gene Lyons' important book, Fools for Scandal.
Last night, instant pushback occurred in defense of Wendy Davis. In 1999, nothing like that happened or was allowed.
For the full skinny on the farm chores attack: See Chapter 2 of our companion site, the incomparable How He Got There.