The controversy over Wendy Davis’ personal history would never have erupted were it not for Davis’ gender, according to one Texas Republican.
“If this involved a man running for office, none of this would ever come up,” Becky Haskin, a former GOP colleague of Davis on the Fort Worth city council, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“It’s so sad. Every time I ran, somebody said I needed to be home with my kids,” Haskin added. “Nobody ever talks about men being responsible parents.”
The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday evening that Davis inaccurately conveyed some details of her biography—among them, describing herself as a teenage single mother when her divorce was not finalized until she was 21. It also reported that her second husband had helped her pay for college and law school, a detail that Davis hasn’t included in the inspiring, up-by-the-bootstraps personal story she has used on the campaign trail.
The report has received national attention and handed the campaign of Greg Abbott, Davis’ likely Republican opponent, a potentially damaging line of attack.
Many of the conservative responses to the story appear to bear Haskin out. As msnbc documented, several right-wing pundits slammed Davis not for being inaccurate, but for prioritizing her career despite having a family.
“Wendy Davis apparently abandoned her children, had her husband foot her bills, and divorced after adultery accusations,” tweeted Ben Shapiro, a prominent conservative writer, in one typical example.
The newspaper report included an anonymous quote from a different former colleague of Davis on the city council, who called Davis “tremendously ambitious,” adding: “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.”
“What that comment really tells you is how hard Wendy works,” Haskin told the Star-Telegram.
Davis has acknowledged the factual errors—“my language should be tighter,” she told the paper. But her campaign also has blamed the Abbott camp for pushing the story.
“We’re not surprised by Greg Abbott’s campaign attacks on the personal story of my life as a single mother who worked hard to get ahead.,” the Davis campaign said in a statement Tuesday. “But they 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.”
Davis cited the criticism in a fundraising appeal sent Wednesday. She wrote in an email to supporters that her opponents have “stooped to a new low by attacking my family, my education, and my personal story – playing politics with the journey that has been my life.”
Wayne Slater, the DMN reporter who wrote the story, told msnbc he had had no contact with the Abbott campaign for the story.
But Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News, suggested Tuesday that Team Abbott has pitched reporters on a version of the story. “Abbott’s campaign has questioned details and pointed out discrepancies in the story she tells of her life,” Fikac wrote.