Unlike the journalists at NBC, who last week offered a fawning profile of "overnight sensation" Wendy Davis, CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night actually investigated the "misleading" claims and "stretching the truth" of the liberal gubernatorial candidate's bio. In a "keeping them honest segment, AC360 anchor Cooper informed viewers that an "aspiring governor is under fire tonight for allegedly blurring the facts of her life story, stretching the truth to the point where, well, some say they feel misled or worse." [MP3 audio here.]
While NBC's Maria Shriver on January 15 credulously repeated how the Texan's "personal story resonated across the country," Cooper explained that "as compelling as it is, doesn't stand up to the facts." In commercials and campaign events, Davis has been insisting that at age 19, she was a single parent who lived in a mobile home. AC360 reporter Ed Lavandera clarified, "It turns out Davis separated from her husband at age 19 but didn't divorce until she was 21. And the trailer court, which has gotten top billing in her bio, the reality is she may have only lived there for a few months."
Lavandera noted that the Democrat has repeatedly touted her attendance in community college and then Harvard Law School. He pointed out:
ED LAVANDERA: She got herself to Harvard, but she had help along the way. Davis had gotten remarried by then, and her second husband tells CNN he paid for her last two years of college and cashed in his 401k to pay for law school.
NBC's gushing profile of Davis on January 15 included this softball question from Shriver: "Does it irritate you that people call you an overnight sensation?"
Since the revelation of Davis's misleading statements, first revealed by the Dallas Morning News, the network has not followed up. ABC and CBS have not covered the allegations against the Democrat.
A partial transcript of the January 21 segment is below:
ANDERSON COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, an aspiring governor is under fire tonight for allegedly blurring the facts of her life story, stretching the truth to the point where, well, some say they feel misled or worse. Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis became a Democratic superstar last summer with her marathon filibuster of strict abortion regulations. Now that she's running for bigger office, she's made her life story really the centerpiece of her campaign, and it's certainly a compelling story, a teenage single mom who pulled herself out of a trailer park and into a better life with grit, gumption and financial aid.
"Keeping Them Honest," though, that story, as compelling as it is, doesn't stand up to the facts. Here's Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA: Sporting pink tennis shoes, Wendy Davis spent around 11 hours last summer filibustering a controversial abortion Bill in the Texas legislature. It was a wild, rowdy night inside the Texas capital. She emerged as the great hope of Texas Democrats to reclaim the governor's seat, which Republicans have controlled since 1994.
WENDY DAVIS: I was raised by a single mom.
LAVANDERA: Davis's personal journey of struggle and hard work seems tailor-made for an inspirational political campaign, a young, divorced single mother, a meteoric rise out of the trailer park to Harvard Law School and on to a legal and then political career. But then some discrepancies in the story uncovered this week by the "Dallas Morning News." While the basics are true -- Davis, a poor, single mother working multiple jobs, graduates from college and Harvard Law School. But a closer look suggests the exact details are more elusive. For example--.
AMBER DAVIS: My mom started out, like many folks do, in a very tough spot. She was raised by a single mother with a sixth- grade education.
LAVANDERA: Now Davis says her mother dropped out in ninth grade.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the time I was 19, I was a single parent, and I was living in a mobile home in Southeast Fort Worth.
LAVANDERA: It turns out Davis separated from her husband at age 19 but didn't divorce until she was 21. And the trailer court, which has gotten top billing in her bio, the reality is she may have only lived there for a few months. Because of the scrutiny surrounding Wendy Davis's story, her campaign put out a two-page biography of her early life. In it, it said that she was married at 18, and her and her husband had their first child at age 19 and that they lived here. At some point they were separated, and Wendy Davis and her daughter remained here. But it's not exactly clear just how long that was. The biography says that they struggled to make ends meet. And it does say that by age 20, she spent a short time living with her mother. Bud Kennedy is a veteran columnist for the "Fort Worth Star-Telegram." He's seen firsthand Wendy Davis skyrocket to the top of the Texas political scene. And he says the trailer played a minor role in her story until recently.