Ashley Killough. Ed Lavandera and Jason Morris
DALLAS (CNN) — Wendy Davis’ second ex-husband, Jeff Davis, says he doesn’t want to talk any more about his ex-wife, adding he wasn’t pleased with the explosive debate that originated from his recent comments about the Texas gubernatorial candidate.
“Despite our differences, Wendy would make a very capable governor,” he said Tuesday in an email response, in which he declined a request for an on-camera interview with CNN.
“Certain comments seem to always be taken out of context and the firestorm of Facebook/hashtag stuff is not useful for forming opinions,” he added.
Social media indeed was set ablaze this week with critics of Davis, as well as defenders.
In a Dallas Morning News article published Sunday, Davis, a Democratic state senator now famous for her 2013 filibuster against an abortion bill, admitted she had not been totally accurate about details from her personal history–a story about a teenage mother who rose out of poverty by putting herself through college and becoming a Texas lawmaker.
While it’s common for politicians to squeeze their personal narratives into a catchy, shorthand version that will appeal to voters, the article points out that Davis had blurred facts about her first marriage and how long she lived in a trailer as a single mother.
Davis is also taking heat for rarely mentioning her second ex-husband, Jeff Davis, a Fort Worth attorney who financially helped her finish college and who cashed out his 401(k) so she could go to Harvard Law School.
Jeff Davis told CNN he took out the 401(k) for other reasons, as well. The market was down at the time and he had some investments go south, so he received some financial advice to take out a 401(k) loan.
Having previously served on the Fort Worth City Council, Jeff Davis also said he “opened some doors for her” as she pursued her interest in local politics. She lost her first race for city council in 1996 but won two years later.
Davis’ campaign trail omission about her ex-husband sparked an uproar among her opponents and critics. A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the likely GOP nominee in this year’s gubernatorial race, said Davis “systematically, intentionally and repeatedly deceived Texans for years about her background.”
Those sentiments were echoed on Twitter, where her detractors created and fueled a hashtag “MoreFakeThanWendyDavis” that went trending nationwide.
While the Dallas Morning News article sparked a fierce response, it wasn’t the first time Jeff Davis has been brought up in a report about Davis’ life. She talked to Vogue about her ex-husband last year, saying she still considers him one of her “role models.” She also brought up the fact that he used his 401(k) to pay the tuition at Harvard.
“When you’re married to someone, you put them first; it’s pretty simple,” Jeff Davis told Vogue.
Wendy Davis also talked about Jeff and his financial role to the San Antonio Express News and Texas Tribune last year. And he was mentioned in a profile story about her life by Bloomberg.
Though she has acknowledged Jeff Davis to the media in the past, she takes issue with the idea that he solely supported her.
“I was a vibrant part of contributing to our family finances from the time I graduated to the time we separated in 2003,” she told the Dallas Morning News.
Davis has defended her overall narrative of overcoming poverty to get an education and build a successful career. On Tuesday, she started firing up her own supporters by posting an open letter on her website asking for support.
“You’re damn right it’s a true story,” she wrote.
Her campaign also released bulleted notes on Monday trying to clarify some of the fuzzy details from her biography.
Bud Kennedy, a veteran columnist for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, has covered Davis’ political career over the years and said the recent dustup marks “what’s going to be the year of things we didn’t know about Wendy Davis.”
He added her opponents will trudge out more research about her voting history on the city council, but ultimately “the question is not does Wendy Davis have all her ducks in a row about what her life was like twenty years ago. The question is do I want Greg Abbott or Wendy Davis leading Texas.”