January 20th, 2014
11:57 AM ET
8 months ago

Report: Wendy Davis' life story more complicated than compelling narrative

Updated 3:47 p.m. ET, 1/20/2014

(CNN) - Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis admitted in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that she hasn't been totally accurate about her life's story, a compelling narrative she has used to appeal to voters in Texas and bolster her national profile.

"My language should be tighter," the Democratic state senator said. "I'm learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail."

After her marathon filibuster against proposed abortion laws in the Texas legislature last summer, Davis was propelled to the national stage. The attention gave her the support and encouragement to announce a bid for governor in October.

She frequently shared her biography both before and after she started running for governor, saying she was a single mother by the age of 19 and lived in a trailer with her young daughter. From there, she eventually put herself through community college, Texas Christian University, and Harvard Law School with the help of scholarship and loans.

The Morning News, however, reported over the weekend that Davis became a single mother at 21, not 19, when she got divorced from her then-husband, who was directed to pay child support.

"She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter," writes Wayne Slater, the paper's senior political writer.

Davis' campaign released a statement later Monday to clarify some of the details from her life.

"Wendy left home at 17, married when she was 18 and had her first daughter Amber when she was 19. She and her husband lived in a trailer, and Wendy continued to live there with Amber after they were separated."

"As a single mother at age 19, she often struggled to make ends meet," the statement continued. "Wendy filed for divorce when she was 20 and she and Amber lived for a short time with her mother. The divorce became final when she was 21."

Davis later got help from a second husband, Jeff Davis, who helped pay for her two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard.

"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," Slater reports.

The Texas Tribune also reported details from Wendy Davis' relationship with Jeff Davis, as well as her complicated life story, back in September.

While Davis was in Boston, her husband took care of their two young daughters, the Morning News article stated.

However, according to the statement provided by her campaign, the girls lived with Davis in Boston during her first year at law school. After that, the girls lived in Fort Worth and Davis commuted weekly to see them. Her mother played a "daily caretaking role" to help Jeff Davis, her campaign said.

After she graduated from Harvard, she came back to Fort Worth and completed a judicial clerkship and worked as an attorney at the law firm Haynes and Boone.

Jeff Davis told the Morning News he "opened some doors for her with some people" so she could pursue her interest in running for city council in 1996. She lost, but ran two years later and won.

Jeff and Wendy Davis ended up getting divorced in 2005, roughly when her final Harvard payment was due.

"I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left," Jeff Davis told the Morning News.

Wendy Davis took issue with the idea that he solely supported her.

"I was a vibrant part of contributing to our family finances from the time I graduated to the time we separated in 2003," she told the paper. "The idea that suddenly there was this instantaneous departure after Jeff had partnered so beautifully with me in putting me through school is just absurd."

Slater reports: "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.""

Jeff Davis won parental custody, and Wendy Davis agreed to pay $1,200 per month in child support, according to the report. Citing her own rocky childhood, Wendy Davis said she wanted her daughters to stay in the home they grew up in.

"I very willingly, as part of my divorce settlement, paid child support. That was at my request, not any court telling me I needed to financially support my daughters," she said.

Her campaign, however, said Jeff and Wendy Davis shared custody of both daughters after the final divorce proceedings.

Davis is on good terms with her daughters, who are now adults. They support their mother's run for governor and appear in a campaign video for her.

"She and Jeff Davis have a healthy and respectful relationship based on their mutual love of their daughters," her campaign said.

Twitter lit afire Monday with critics blasting Davis for leaving out key parts of her personal history, such as the help she received from Jeff Davis. The hashtag #MoreFakeThanWendyDavis, used mostly by conservatives, became a trending topic on the social media site.

Though she admitted some details had been blurred, Davis defended her overall story as a young single mother who rose out of poverty and built a successful career.

"Most people would identify with the fact that we tend to be defined by the struggles we came through than by the successes. And certainly for me that's true," she told the Morning News. "When I think about who I am and how it's reflected in the things I worked on, it comes from that place."

Davis raised a sizable $12 million last year, but she's still far behind from likely GOP nominee and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who took in $16 million and had $27 million cash on hand.

In the statement sent by her campaign, Davis dismissed attacks from her opponents over the Morning News article.

"(The attacks) won't work, because my story is the story of millions of Texas women who know the strength it takes when you're young, alone and a mother," she said.


Filed under: 2014 • Texas • Wendy Davis
soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Enough is Enough

    Oh my, isn't she a piece of work! Standing up for women's rights and feminist ideals – while taking full advantage of her husband. You Dem's sure know how to pick'em! Could be facing purgery charges too....not to bright for a Harvard lawyer....I think that I see a trend with them....

    January 20, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Goodbye Rick Perry !

    Where has Ted Cruz been hiding ?

    January 20, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. Larry in Houston

    IF she makes it, I'll be a monkey's uncle...LOL –
    It would be like climbing Mt. Everest barefooted... ( Just Saying )

    January 20, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. A True Conservative

    Absurd? Me thinks not. You took him for all that he was worth and dumped him as soon as it fit you political and financial needs. I wouldn't trust you as far as I could throw you. I also note that your entire basis for running for governor is your support for killing innocent children. I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise since you appear to have abandoned your own.

    January 20, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. Silence DoGood

    @true conservative "support for killing innocent children"
    And of course since your religious sect thinks this, then it should be law in the Moral Big Government, and everyone must be forced to follow it. Maybe you should consider moving to a Religious State somewhere, like Iran. Religious Freedom is too scary for you.
    ----
    " I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
    ~George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

    January 20, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. yolanda

    Nothing new here. Common practice for politicians to either omit or embellish elements of their past. Think Elizebeth Warren (Cherokee), Richard Blumenthal (Viet Nam veteran), Marco Rubio (immigration story), etc.
    Sadly, people tend to pay little attention to the air brushing. The bar has been lowered so much that it is hard to even trip on it.

    January 20, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  7. Tony

    "Purgery" charges? Perjury is lying under oath. Wendy Davis did not lie under oath. She lied, or embellished, about her life's story. If lawyers are required to tell the literal truth at all times, most of them will be out of work.

    January 20, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. O'drama ya Mama

    A True Conservative

    Absurd? Me thinks not. You took him for all that he was worth and dumped him as soon as it fit you political and financial needs. I wouldn't trust you as far as I could throw you. I also note that your entire basis for running for governor is your support for killing innocent children. I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise since you appear to have abandoned your own.
    January 20, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    You gonna fall for a he said she said? You and I both know there are 3 sides to every story. Hers, his and the truth.

    January 20, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. just saying

    well, well, well... and now the truth comes out about this user of people. she makes it sound like she has a real tough life and pulled herself up when that is the furthest thing from the truth. she used that poor guy then tossed him aside. she is nothing but a shameless gold digger. this horrible person is he last person you would want in a position of power. absolutely no morals or conscience whatsoever. i guess that is why she is a democrat.

    January 20, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. ada ada

    when a Liberal LIES (Like Liberal Pro Abortion Wendy concocted the story of her child hood), Media Liebrals (like at CNN) use the word "complicated"...lol

    January 20, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. Tommy G

    Any male that would vote for this women should be castrated. Her treatment of the man that got her where she is today is reprehensible. This woman should be shunned, not voted for.

    Honestly Democrats, this is the best you got? Some man user and abuser? After this revelation she is toast. She is far more than dishonest.

    January 20, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    Does anyone recall Marco Rubio embellishing his life story? Does not seem to have dampened the ardor the Right feels for him in the least.

    January 20, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    After she graduated from Harvard, she came back to Fort Worth and Jeff Davis said he "opened some doors for her with some people" so she could pursue her interest in running for city council in 1996, according to the Morning News. She lost, but ran two years later and won.

    Wendy Davis took issue with the idea that he solely supported her.
    -------------------------
    Sounds like the essence of what Mr. Davis is saying is, "You didn't build that."

    January 20, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. Tampa Tim

    The best way to determine the truth is see what Hannity says, the truth is the opposite.

    January 20, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    just saying wrote:

    well, well, well... and now the truth comes out about this user of people. she makes it sound like she has a real tough life and pulled herself up when that is the furthest thing from the truth. she used that poor guy then tossed him aside. she is nothing but a shameless gold digger. ... ... ...
    ---------------------
    There's a small problem with your "she used the poor guy then tossed him aside" narrative. He filed for divorce, not her.

    January 20, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  16. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Just sounds like the usual smear campaign from the GOP fools with O creditability!!!!!

    January 20, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ just saying –

    Just a suggestion ... Wendy Davis is perhaps not the person whom your party wants to mount a political attack on.

    January 20, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  18. Donna

    How about an honest and accurate story title?!!

    Report: Wendy Davis' lies about her life story, uses ex-husband then walks out on him

    There, fixed it for you CNN.

    January 20, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. Tony

    "My language should be tighter," the Democratic state senator said.
    --

    Another Democrat way of saying SHE LIED. I guess Obama should have used tigher language when he lied about Obamacare right? Obama = Liar of the Year. Wendy Davis = Liar of the Year in Texas.

    January 20, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    @just sayin:

    Didn't take you two seconds to start slinging the mud. Too bad she isn't like Mark Sanford, Vitter, Gingrich,
    and all the other "users" of women that you and your ilk seem to adore, forgive, and pretend that
    "boys will be boys".
    These fine, moral, upstanding men are or were in positions of power and they shouldn't be either.

    Not to worry though. She won't win, and we will be right back where we started with Perry.
    Nowhere.

    January 20, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. just saying

    Lynda/Minnesota
    @ just saying –
    Just a suggestion ... Wendy Davis is perhaps not the person whom your party wants to mount a political attack on.
    -–

    right.... all of her lies and misrepresentations should just be ignored.... gotta love these leftist democrats. they lie through their teeth, get caught and then expect everybody to ignore it and let it slide. meanwhile they mount a multi-million dollar politcal witch hunt in nj.

    January 20, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. just saying

    Rudy NYC
    just saying wrote:
    well, well, well... and now the truth comes out about this user of people. she makes it sound like she has a real tough life and pulled herself up when that is the furthest thing from the truth. she used that poor guy then tossed him aside. she is nothing but a shameless gold digger. ... ... ...
    -------
    There's a small problem with your "she used the poor guy then tossed him aside" narrative. He filed for divorce, not her.
    --–

    yeah, so what?!! he finally woke up and saw he was being used and taken to the cleaners and dumped the gold digging tramp. good for him!!! i suppose you think he should have stayed with her until she completely bled him dry?

    January 20, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. simplyput

    Good luck on mounting Ms Windy for Texas gov....an English major with the nerve to go to law school...wow. Not a credible candidate for state governmor. Sorry, dims. All the money in the world can't fix incompetent.

    January 20, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Jennie O

    I would never ever vote for this horrible person. No wonder she supports the murder of babies. So when will the press conference be where she answers the tough questions of the press? Will she get the Christie treatment for misleading and lying to people? Or will the leftwing news media give her a free pass?

    January 20, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    just saying wrote:

    "There's a small problem with your "she used the poor guy then tossed him aside" narrative. He filed for divorce, not her."

    yeah, so what?!! he finally woke up and saw he was being used and taken to the cleaners and dumped the gold digging tramp. good for him!!! i suppose you think he should have stayed with her until she completely bled him dry?
    --------------------------------------
    Oh my! You? You give sanction to a divorce? I had thought that you believed in the traditional definition of marriage and its' sacred vows. What ever happened to the "till death do us part" part? Your immorals are showing.

    January 20, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6