For three years, the media gave her a free ride. On June 17, Chris Arnold of NPR reported:
Much of the groundswell behind this crusade comes from just regular people pulled into it for their own reasons. For a woman named Shannon Watts, she was drawn in by another mass shooting — the murder of 20 schoolchildren 6- and 7-year-olds in Newtown, Connecticut. Watts wasn’t there: She lived 800 miles away in Zionsville, Indiana. She was folding her kids’ laundry, actually, when the news broke. And she wanted to do something. ‘I was obviously devastated but I was also angry and I went online and I thought, ‘Surely there is a Mothers Against Drunk Driving for gun safety.’ And I couldn’t find anything. Watts had never done anything political before but she made a Facebook page and she called it One Million Moms for Gun Control [now Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America].But there was more to it than folding laundry.
The NRA complained and NPR issued a correction four days later:
June 21, 2016
This report refers to Shannon Watts as one in a group of “regular people” who began advocating for stricter gun control measures in recent years. After the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., she created the “One Million Moms for Gun Control” Facebook page. It later became “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.”
We should have noted that Watts has a background in corporate communications. From 1998 to mid-2012, she was a corporate communications executive or consultant at such companies as Monsanto and FleishmanHillard. Before that, Watts had what she says was a nonpolitical job as a public affairs officer in the Missouri state government.
Our report also states that Watts had never “done anything political” before the shootings at Sandy Hook. We should have noted that Federal Election Commission records show she began contributing money to Democratic campaigns and political action committees earlier in 2012. According to those records, she has made about $10,000 in such contributions, and about one-third were made before the Sandy Hook shootings.Media critic Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, from who I received this information, focused on the definition of a stay-at-home mom, rather than the real problem: A professional PR person not disclosing this background. His report is here.
NPR was correct in outing her PR past. This is not a grassroots campaign. This is a professional PR effort designed to mislead the public about its origins.