The Spectacle Blog

Tangled: Wendy Davis Can’t Get Out

By on 1.21.14 | 11:39AM

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when at first we practice to deceive.”

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis should have taken a warning from Sir Walter Scott in her high school English class.

Tangled in Davis’s web are the missing details of her compelling single mother-turned-Harvard grad tale:

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.

Ouch.

Davis had previously claimed she was 19 when she was divorced and living in a trailer park. In her attempt to identify with struggling mothers in that position, Davis might have just ostracized them.

Her second marriage provided the funds she needed to rise out of poverty. In and of itself, it is hard to blame the woman for finding a good, supportive husband after her first divorce. However, the information which follows—Davis leaving her children, getting a degree, and then divorcing the man who helped make that possible—does not help her Cinderella story.

Davis said anyone attacking her story hasn’t walked in her shoes—but put the shoe on the other foot.

What if Davis’s second husband had married her, used her money for a degree, left their children, and divorced her? That man would be pinned up as the poster child of female oppression and the irresponsibility of testosterone.

Instead, Davis has manipulated this story to make herself the valiant overcomer.

Jeff Davis, her ex-husband, stated that Wendy Davis left after the final check to Harvard was sent and their divorce fillings mention infidelity on Davis’s part. Nonetheless, his comments were extremely generous:

“She got a break,” Jeff Davis said. “Good things happen, opportunities open up. You take them; you get lucky. That’s a better narrative than what they’re trying to paint.”

He added that she did work, and she worked hard. Jeff Davis deserves praise, not only for supporting his wife through her success, but defending her even after a strenuous end.

I have to wonder if Wendy Davis would have been so generous to her ex-husband if their roles were reversed.

Regardless, there is no doubt that Wendy Davis, despite the truisms imbedded in her tale, has quite the web to untangle. She clearly intended to leave those details out for a reason—they don’t paint the narrative she wants. Now, the missing facts might just mar her chances at future success.

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