A scathing exposé can go one of two ways. Ideally, you're uncovering some carefully-verified, well-researched information about an individual that is clearly and indubitably relevant to their current actions or position. Or, less ideally, you're massively reaching and grasping at many, many straws in a move that is ultimately more embarrassing for yourself than it is for the subject of the article. Sure, there might also be some middle ground available, but the latter was solidly the case with a story run by a Texas paper recently on the life of Wendy Davis, noting that she (gasp!) had only lived in a mobile home for a few months and that her mother in fact had a ninth grade education, not just a sixth grade one. The exposé went on to make some implications against her as a mother, which was a source of great pleasure for many naysayers.
We hardly need to point out that this kind of criticism — or any suggestions that a father abandoned his children in pursuit of an education or a career — is very rarely leveraged against male politicians. Davis herself has admitted that she needs to be more careful with details regarding her own life story, but now, her daughters Dru and Amber have spoken out in two open letters published by The Washington Post. Dru writes that while she resents the necessity of the letter, "sadly I feel the need to be crystal clear on the malicious and false charge of abandonment as nothing could be further from the truth."
Addressing concerns that Davis neglected her children while in law school, Dru explains:
"We lived with her for the first semester, but I had severe asthma and the weather there wasn't good for me. My parents made a decision for my sister and me to stay in Texas while my mom kept going to school. But that doesn't mean she wasn't there for us...I love that my mom went to law school and was dedicated to both her work and us. Watching her work so hard to achieve something great has been one of the most important lessons in my life."
Amber's letter is along the same lines, noting that "our family has gone through difficult times just like many others. That's not news. That's life," and reinforced the support she has always received from both parents. You can read both letters in full here.
Of course, it's within any journalist or citizen's right to call out inconsistencies in a public figure's story. Overall, though, we're not sure that taking exact measurements of just how much suffering Davis has experienced is really getting anyone anywhere. If she embellished her story, intentionally or accidentally, the changes are insignificant enough that it doesn't change our perception of her character. Nor does it seem to change the perceptions of those who have always held her in low regard — so, like the unfortunate majority of political conversations in this country, nobody is getting anywhere. It would perhaps be more productive to focus on Davis' message, the relevance and importance of which still holds for many single mothers and Americans in general, regardless of how exactly it does or does not line up with her own personal experience.
If there's still any stock in the phrase "out of the mouths of babes," let's employ that here. The very people who are the subject of concern trolling regarding Davis' supposedly bad mothering are speaking out and saying that they have nothing but appreciation for the woman who has worked hard to get a better life for herself and for her daughters. To continue the conversation about her personal life and her parenting choices beyond this point would be disrespectful. The end.