Sometimes the holes in a news story are so big they go unnoticed.
That’s what happened last week with the reporting about a terrible and senseless crime in New Mexico.
Every story, including one television station’s account that dripped with venom, identified a suspect in a deadly drive-by shooting in Albuquerque as the 18-year-old son of state Rep. Stephanie Maez.
Not one news report mentioned the teenager’s father. It was as though Rep. Maez alone was solely responsible for her son Donovan’s existence.
Pregnancy and parenthood involve two people. Yet in this case, the focus of the news coverage was entirely on a young mother.
I say young because Rep. Maez is only 35 years old. Her son is now older than she was when she gave birth to him.
Being a teenage mother couldn’t have been easy for Maez. Most kids her age were learning to drive when she was learning to be a parent, shouldering the responsibility alone.
Her life has only gotten harder when the reverse should have been true. Donovan Maez, though having reached adulthood, is almost as helpless as a newborn after his arrest on suspicion of murder.
The worst and most unfair coverage of the case, by Albuquerque television station KOB, implied that Rep. Maez also bore responsibility for her son’s alleged crime.
KOB began its story this way: “The credibility of state Representative Stephanie Maez is being questioned after her son, Donovan, was charged with the murder of popular high school teen, Jaydon Chavez-Silver.”
The station subsequently removed the story from its website, the original script scrubbed from view. KOB executives no longer want to claim the story they published, but they cannot erase it from human memory banks.
KOB in its story offered a forum for Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican, to attack Democratic Rep. Maez.
Johnson was eager to act superior and omniscient for a television audience. The Democrat-controlled board of commissioners in December appointed Maez to fill a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives. By Johnson’s account, Maez shouldn’t have been chosen because seven months after her appointment, an innocent boy was shot to death and Maez’s son subsequently was arrested as a suspect.
Johnson might not know it, but of the 23 women now serving in the state House of Representatives, four were unwed teenage mothers. Two of them are Democrats and two are Republicans, demonstrating that teen pregnancy is not limited to one political party or social class. Three of the four now are in their 30s and the other is 44.
On occasion, they’ve spoken publicly about the responsibility and fear that came with motherhood at a young age. Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, once stood on the House floor during debate on an education bill for teen mothers and told colleagues of people looking down on her, predicting that she would not amount to anything.
Like most of you, I believe life’s pitfalls only grow bigger if unwed teenagers have children. But equally plain is that Johnson, KOB and others who attacked Rep. Maez were opportunists, happy to stand in judgment of her based on a charge against her son.
None of them asked about or mentioned Donovan Maez’s father. Instead, they directed their vitriol at Rep. Maez, who went to The University of New Mexico, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, took over the leadership of a public policy organization and received an appointment to the Legislature.
Rep. Maez is just as driven and no less flawed than most of the other 69 members of the House of Representatives.
Motherhood was her hardest job. That hasn’t changed, and neither have unrelenting prejudices, as evidenced by KOB’s attack on Rep. Maez. If the station was so concerned about the parenting of a defendant in a murder case, why is it that only the mother was targeted?
It’s simple. Gender bias is alive and thriving in New Mexico.