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Davis Campaign Hits Rocky Trail With Video/Backstory Shakeup

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
Wendy Davis at a Rackspace campaign stop in San Antonio last year.

Texas Matters: Wendy Davis had a lot of fires to put out in her election campaign this week. First, a Dallas Morning News story questioned some of the specifics in her backstory, then a video was released of Battleground Texas employees appearing to mock Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's disability. Also on this show, the man whose group is responsible for taking the undercover video defends his group's actions and tactics.

Davis defends her backstory

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, rocketed to national political prominence last June during her 11-hour filibuster against an abortion bill. And afterwards she was targeted by Gov. Rick Perry for her past as a single mom.

Since then Davis declared she is running for governor and her backstory of being a single mother facing day-to-day challenges, still managing to get a Harvard Law degree and then become a state political leader has been part of her compelling back story.

Davis recently shared her story on the Today Show, but now that story is being questioned. Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slatter called the story basically true, but his reporting seized on detail that Davis was divorced at 21 and not 19 as she claimed.

That discrepancy was jumped on by political opponents of Davis.

Davis said she did not exaggerate her personal story and she says her story is important because it informs her political choices.

"My life story is one that I'm very proud of. I came from a long period of struggle and I persevered through that and my education made a pathway to opportunity possible for me. The fact that Greg Abbot and his campaign are pushing these attacks and innuendos is simply further proof that they are out of touch with the struggles that Texas women and mothers face when it comes to trying to meet the needs of their families. Earning a living, providing health care, putting food on the table, these are very real challenges that Texans face every day. I certainly faced them myself and it is the reason that I am in public service and it has formed the basis for the priorities that I have had as a senator as well as those that I will have if I have the privilege of being the next governor of Texas."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Walking a fine line

As we mentioned in the Davis interview a video was released this week by James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas. The secretly-recorded video shows workers for Battleground Texas mocking Attorney General Greg Abbott, the likely republican candidate for governor, for being in a wheelchair.

James OKeefe has made a name for himself recording hidden videotapes – one of his targets has been NPR. I spoke to O’Keefe about this latest target and his methods.

"Mike Wallace was a journalist, Diane Sawyer won Investigative Reporters and Editors awards for going undercover at Food Lion* and that was far more unethical than anything I've ever done. These other people win Peabody Awards and  Emmy Awards for their programming and the difference is I'm a citizen journalist. I don't have a news network, I'm not working for a news network, I'm putting my stuff on YouTube and letting it aggregate and disseminate throughout the internet. That's the distinction between me and other journalists, but the nature of what I do I would argue is closer to journalism than any written form of journalism or broadcast form of journalism because I'm showing you the reality of things. I'm taking you into places you don't see and I'm showing you things people don't say when they know they are on the record. That's what I'm trying to do is to create a more ethical society and I think this is how we do it. We obviously can't cross a line -- it's a fine line -- but it's important work and I think undercover work is necessary to hold powerful people accountable."

*Note: Sawyer herself did not go undercover to get the ABC story, she anchored the broadcast of the program.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi