The Dallas Morning News clearly wanted to publish a story reporting that Wendy Davis exaggerated about growing up poor while raising kids on her own. That's plain by the title of its big feature on the Sunday front page: "As Wendy Davis touts life story in race for governor, key facts blurred."
Sure, if it turned out that Wendy Davis was never a single, teenage mom living in a mobile home, as she has repeatedly mentioned, but was actually a happily married, childless woman who grew up in Plano and settled with her husband in her parent's basement, that would count as lying about some key facts.
Unfortunately for The Dallas Morning News, the report didn't find that. Instead we are left with a timid little story that suggests, but never says outright, that Davis' rise from poverty to senator wasn't so bad because she had a man.
You can see how a story like that might be a little offensive to girl politicians, Democrat or Republican. But don't worry, News reporter Wayne Slater has his facts. He came to that conclusion by quoting a grand total of three people -- Davis herself, one of her ex-husbands and an anonymous source who suggests that Davis is a liar who cares more about success than her children.
The whole report hinges on a wobbly little summary paragraph. "The basic elements of the narrative are true, but the full story of Davis' life is more complicated ... some facts have been blurred," Slater writes. It turns out, even though Davis had once said she was divorced when she was 19, Slater found some paperwork showing that the divorce wasn't final until she was 21. In an interview, Davis told the DMN that she was 19 or 20 when she separated from her first ex-husband. Slater doesn't lay out for readers why that's significant, but as the story goes on, it becomes clear that this is all part of the Wendy Davis Isn't So Tough, Look at Her Leaning on Her Man narrative.
In the most passive way possible, Slater then questions whether Davis really lifted herself out from poverty to success on her own."Some will question how much of her success was her own doing, and how bad her circumstances were to start," he writes.
The DMN then introduces us to Jeff Davis. This is the man, the paper is suggesting, who some people will think provided for Davis' success.
As reported in the story, Wendy Davis was working two jobs at age 21 when she met Jeff Davis, identified as "a 34-year-old friend of her father's." Jeff "once served" on Fort Worth City Council. Wendy later expressed interest in running, too, leading to this vague quote from Jeff: "I opened some doors for her with people, knew how bright she was and knew she'd do a good job,'' he told the DMN. Yet we never get to learn what opening a door for Wendy Davis means.
It turns out, opening doors isn't all Jeff Davis has done. He also said he paid for her final two years at Texas Christian University and then paid for her time at Harvard, though Wendy Davis denies this. "We paid for it together," she told the paper. Presumably, it is according to Jeff Davis that Jeff Davis funded Wendy's education, and he is still pissed.
"It was ironic," he said. "I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left." Does he mean Wendy Davis used him for tuition money? If only he and Slater would stand up straight, look readers in the eye and tell us what they are really thinking.
In 2003, the marriage ended. Jeff Davis got custody of the kids. Wendy was ordered by a judge to pay child support. Wendy Davis tells the DMN that was what the couple agreed on, but Jeff Davis is silent on that issue. However, we do have this interpretation of the divorce proceedings from Anonymous Guy. "She's not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way," Anonymous Guy says. He does not elaborate.
Anonymous Guy is a former colleague, who adds: "A lot of it isn't true about her, but that's just us who knew her. But she'd be a good governor."
No, we don't know what that means either.
Jeff Davis gets the last word in the story, capping the tale off with more suggestions that Wendy Davis pranced through life with a man supporting her. "A lot of what she says is true," he starts off, nicely. But that doesn't last long. "When she was 21, it became a little easier for her ... She got a break," he explains. Then, the final jab directed in Wendy Davis' general direction: "Good things happen, opportunities open up. You take them; you get lucky. That's a better narrative than what they're trying to paint." Yes, that narrative might be better, if you are the person who thinks they are responsible for making Wendy Davis' life "a little easier."