You remember Kim Davis, right?
As a self-described "foul-mouthed moderate" put it on Twitter, "She's that lady who refused to issue gay couples marriage licenses in Kentucky."
More precisely, as GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly notes, "Davis didn’t try to deny license. She just wanted to avoid being the person who had to sign it."
If somehow Davis' name doesn't ring a bell, we have a post or two — or 3 million — in our archive.
I bring her up because, well, she's back in the headlines again.
The news peg is simple: A gay man who unsuccessfully sought a marriage license from Davis has filed to run against her for Rowan County clerk.
This is the headline — cue the clickbait — atop the Lexington Herald-Leader's story:
Kim Davis denied him a marriage license. Now he wants to take her job
Eventually, the Herald-Leader story will turn into what approaches an unpaid political advertisement for Davis' challenger, the fourth Democrat so far to enter the race. But up top, the report is straightforward and factual (albeit less than precise on how Davis phrased her position, as tmatt noted):
MOREHEAD — David Ermold, one of the men denied a same-sex marriage license by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in 2015, hopes to challenge her for the clerk’s seat next year, he announced Wednesday.
Davis set off an international furor when she denied a marriage license to Ermold and his partner, David Moore, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right for same-sex couples to marry.
Davis, who said providing the license violated her religious beliefs, continued to withhold the license, even after a federal judge ordered her to issue it, and was jailed briefly. The issue was solved when one of her deputies, Brian Mason, agreed to issue licenses, and in 2016 the Kentucky General Assembly established an alternate license.
Mason is still issuing same-sex marriage licenses, he said Wednesday.
“I am running to restore the confidence of the people in our clerk’s office and because I believe that the leaders of our community should act with integrity and fairness, and they should put the needs of their constituents first,” said Ermold, 43, who teaches English at the University of Pikeville and directs Morehead Pride, a local gay rights organization. “My commitment to Rowan County is to restore professional leadership, fairness, and responsibility to the clerk’s office. I will build upon the successes of the past, and I will seek solutions for the challenges we may still face.”
So where does the story start to run off the fair-and-impartial journalistic train tracks? Just a couple of sentences later, I'd say. See if any particular phrase raises eyebrows here:
Davis, who has been married to opposite-sex partners four times, has already said she will run for re-election.
Two questions about that sentence:
1. Is the number of times Davis has been married relevant to the story? If so, why? And if so, shouldn't the newspaper make that reason clear? Or at least quote the challenger making that an issue?
2. Is the "to opposite-sex partners" part of that phrase really necessary? Or is that a subtle (or not-so-subtle, come to think of it) editorialization on the paper's part?
From there, the Herald-Leader has a brief snippet of a quote from Davis (via The Associated Press), then proceeds to give Ermold the microphone for unfettered criticism of Davis, with no allowance for any responses on her part.
If the reporter attempted to contact Davis for comment, the story doesn't mention it.
Finally, at the end, the Herald-Leader gets around to a brief quote from a Davis supporter. But by then, it's too little, too late to salvage the story.