January 20th, 2014
11:57 AM ET
7 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. Gunderson

    GHumm,
    A Harvard Grad? Didn't What's-His-Name go to Harvard? I guess just anyone can get into Harvard, Eh?

    January 20, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    -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?
    *******************
    Let me guess: you've been snapchatting with him? Unless you can provide prooof, like, say, the emails that showed Christie's aides engaging in retribution against the Mayoe of Fort Lee, all you're engaging in is your predictable opinion.

    January 20, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Enough is Enough

    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.

    and the truth is.....

    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.
    While Davis was in Boston, her husband took care of their two young daughters.
    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.
    Jeff and Wendy Davis ended up getting separated and divorced between 2003 and 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.

    WOW, just WOW!!! Talk about a complete, dishonest fabrication by this woman!! It wasn't like she missed one or two little details. She painted an entire false portrait of herself. It is pretty clear she used this poor Jeff guy until the well ran dry, then dumped him AND HER DAUGHTERS. Typical liberal, typical Democrat.

    January 20, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    "All the money in the world can't fix incompetent".......

    As proven by the billions spent by Koch, Rove, etc........

    January 20, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    -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.
    ******************
    " Some man user and abuser": only the Right would try to make this guy out to be a victim.

    January 20, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  6. Tony

    Simplyput, there are lots of English majors in law schools.

    January 20, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. truth hurts but reality bites

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

    I guess you missed the part in the article that says:

    "I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left," Jeff Davis told the Morning News.
    Slater reports: "In his initial divorce filing, Jeff Davis said the marriage had failed, citing adultery on her part

    So I wonder if the press will ask her if she cheated on, used her ex-husband for financial gain, then abandoned him and her daughters? I will NOT be holding my breath.

    January 20, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  8. mom who actually made my own way

    ho hum – another harvard liar – who used a man to pay her way - not surprised..

    January 20, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. t

    Perry or Wendy.....?.................................Well, we KNOW who the SMART one is..................and his name isn't Perry.

    January 20, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. J-Man

    Thanks to Barry Obama, she has discovered that lying is an acceptable form of political discourse. No punishment for Barry, no punishment for her. She should be laughed right out the door.

    January 20, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  11. Ron

    She doesn't sound like a good person..... and she definitely didn't make it on her own.

    January 20, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  12. usaman

    the truth is complicated? only for lying liberals....

    January 20, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. BC2010

    So she lied to make herself more of a sympathetic figure after having cheated on her husband...but the article portrays her situation as "complicated"? If this were any Republican, CNN would make this headline news that she was lying and untrustworthy and an adulterer.
    They are both pathetic.

    January 20, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. AndISayThis

    "Gunderson
    GHumm,
    A Harvard Grad? Didn't What's-His-Name go to Harvard? I guess just anyone can get into Harvard, Eh?"
    -------------

    Could you?

    January 20, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  15. Belinda

    So basically she is just another liar, cheat, user...politician.

    January 20, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. Mike

    Jeff Davis is her husband's name? Now, there's a name!

    January 20, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  17. Caroless

    Doesn't read any differently from an ambitious man..... what is the big deal?

    January 20, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  18. Sue

    If you switch the names and roles, Wendy Davis' history sounds like millions of other couples' who have struggled through the early years of marriage, parenthood and ongoing education or training. The biggest difference I can detect is that Ms.Davis stayed in contact with her kids and actually paid her child support. Something many other non-custodial parents chose NOT to do.

    January 20, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. Debbie

    It's a compelling story as it is the story of millions of women. LOL over ex husbands name. Jeff Davis. Wow! That's a hoot!

    January 20, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  20. Natrldiver

    So she is just like Obama, a liar from the get go. Why am I not surprised.

    January 20, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. mom who actually made my own way

    She lied – cmon CNN – stop white-washing these lying politicians... SHE LIED... period. ie – She said FALSE things... Also looks like she used a guy to pay her school, then dumped her kids from another marriage on him to-boot.

    January 20, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. Loki II

    Fired for lying. Fired for using men to finance her agendas. My first wife did the same thing.....I had to pay pay pay for everything, then poof. Divorce.

    January 20, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  23. greg

    Let me start by saying when you are younger you many times do not understand the future weight of your decisions. You may think you do, but you don't. I used to think abortion was not a big deal and then many years later had a son born at 24 weeks. Birth weight 1lb 11oz. He is a perfectly normal little healthy boy.
    How this mother of two can be worshiped by the morons that support her late term abortion filibuster is beyond ridiculous. She is a mother of 2 that put her career above her family. We need servant leaders not selfish phony leaders that support killing babies that can survive if they are given the chance to be born.
    She is rotten to the core.

    January 20, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  24. Amos

    She leaves her children behind for two years while her husband withdraws his 401K to pay for her school. That was followed by her husband suing for divorce and getting custody of their child as well as a child from her PREVIOUS marriage. That alone speaks volumes to her character. Working mom indeed...

    Find a father for your child. Check.
    Get husband to liquidate his retirement to pay for your out-of-state ivy league education. Check.
    Get divorced and make sure husband has custody of ALL of the kids (his and yours). Check.

    January 20, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. blakenaustin

    There is nothing complicated about it. Davis is just another far left compulsive liar with few accomplishments to her credit. She would fit right in with an Obama cabinet role.

    January 20, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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