The Corner

Wendy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Last June, Texas state senator Wendy Davis led an unsuccessful filibuster trying to block a bill abandoning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. She became a mainstream media darling was hailed as “incredible” by the national Girl Scouts office, and her flush $12 million-campaign war chest almost certainly makes her the Democratic candidate for Texas governor.

But unlike her fellow Texan, U.S. senator Ted Cruz, who stayed on his feet for hours in September of last year speaking against Obamacare, Davis didn’t see her background and life story put under a microscope and picked apart. The Daily Beast went so far as to run an article on Cruz’s Princeton student days with the loaded question: “Can a master debater who wore a paisley bathrobe to creepily stroll by the women’s wing of the dorm be the next president?”

To its credit, the Dallas Morning News’s Wayne Slater has scrutinized Davis’s rags-to-fame story and found much of it inaccurate or exaggerated.

It is her biography — a divorced teenage mother living in a trailer who earned her way to Harvard and political achievement — that her team is using to attract voters and boost fundraising.”

The basic elements of the narrative are true, but the full story of Davis’ life is more complicated, as often happens when public figures aim to define themselves. In the shorthand version that has developed, some facts have been blurred.

Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter.

A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.

Davis admitted to Slater that: “My language should be tighter, I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”

The Dallas Morning News article has a lot more detail on Davis’s actual life story, including the fact that she didn’t even contest custody of her children and left her husband the day after he made her last student-loan payment.

The liberal media is in the habit of protecting the complicated life stories of Democratic candidates from too much scrutiny; Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren come to mind. Here’s hoping the Dallas Morning News story will prompt more media outlets to moderate their fawning coverage of Wendy Davis and provide the kind of “balance” they have long delivered in covering Ted Cruz.