Texas Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, a gubernatorial candidate, hit back against claims that she embellished key facts to her life story.
“And you’re damn right it’s a true story,” wrote Davis in an open letter published to her campaign website.
Davis was responding to a Dallas Morning News article that showed that Davis left out key details of her widely touted life story, particularly how much help she received during her rise from a trailer-park dwelling single mother to a Harvard Law School grad to a likely Democratic nominee for Texas governor.
When Davis has told her inspirational tale, she has typically mentioned that she was a single mom who was also raised by a single mom. She says that she entered community college and then attended Texas Christian University, financing it through a mix of scholarships and Pell grants.
In the meantime, according to Davis’ telling, she married again, had a second child, and then graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1993.
“Mine is a story about a teenage single mother who struggled to keep her young family afloat,” wrote Davis. “It’s a story about a young woman who was given a precious opportunity to work her way up in the world. It’s a story about resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance.”
The Dallas Morning News report cast doubt on the genesis of that “precious opportunity”.
According to that report, Davis’ second husband, former Fort Worth city councilman Jeff Davis, had a big hand in helping pay for his wife’s academic studies.
Jeff Davis paid for Wendy Davis’s final two years at Texas Christian University. He also cashed in his 401 (k) to help pay for her studies at Harvard Law School, according to the paper.
What’s more, Wendy Davis filed for divorce the day after Jeff Davis finished paying off his wife’s Harvard school loans in 2003, the News reported.
Other details uncovered in the report might be embarrassing for Davis, who gained national attention after an 11-hour filibuster last June against an ultimately successful Republican-backed bill banning abortion after 20 week unless the mother’s life is in danger.
In the first document filed in the couples’ divorce proceedings, Jeff Davis claimed Wendy Davis had committed adultery. Wendy Davis also relinquished custody of the couple’s daughter and agreed to pay $1,200 in child support per month.
Other news reports have indicated that Davis wasn’t strictly raised by a single mother, despite her claims.
In an interview last year, Davis’ father, Jerry Russell, rejected the idea that his daughter’s childhood was as despondent as she’s claimed. He has said that he was not present in the family home but was present in his daughter’s life.
Wendy Davis had also claimed in 2012 that her mother had only a 6th grade education. The Davis campaign has had to correct that statement after the Associated Press reported that Davis’s mother, Ginger Cornstubble, made references to attending Muleshoe High School on her Facebook page.
Davis also hasn’t always avoided acknowledging her ex-husband’s help.
“He gave to me my adolescence. He gave me the opportunity to be a university student,” said Davis in a 1996 interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram during her unsuccessful campaign for the Fort Worth City Council. Davis ran again in 1999 and was elected to the position. She was elected to the Texas state senate in 2008.
Davis has blamed her likely Republican opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, for what she sees as a political attack.
“The only thing Greg Abbott and his allies have proved with these desperate attacks is that they don’t understand what it means to live a life like mine — a life like that of so many people all across our state,” Davis wrote in her open letter.
But, Wayne Slater, the Dallas Morning News reporter who wrote the story says that he did not speak to any members of Abbott’s camp for his article.
Davis’ response has deepened the controversy.
“I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance. And I guarantee you that anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn’t walked a day in my shoes,” said Davis in a statement shortly after the Dallas Morning News article was published.
Abbott has been paralyzed since the age of 26.
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