MSNBC’s Jansing Rushes to Defend Wendy Davis From Questions Over Biography

January 21st, 2014 1:54 PM

MSNBC darling Wendy Davis is in some hot water over inaccuracies surrounding her personal biography. According to the Dallas Morning News's Wayne Slater -- no conservative he, by the way --  despite Ms. Davis’s own claims, she was 21, not 19 when she was divorced and living in a trailer as a single mother.

Despite the glaring factual inconsistencies in Ms. Davis’s own biography, on January 21, Chris Jansing was quick to rush to her defense. During her daily Jansing & Co. show, Jansing proclaimed Davis a “Democratic rising star” without mentioning that her very own network is in no small way responsible for raising the previously unknown Texas state senator’s rise to national prominence.

Jansing began her segment by immediately sympathizing with Ms. Davis and how her “compelling personal story was a “relatable story of the struggles of a younger mother who overcame adversity to graduate from Harvard Law.” After former Bush/Cheney senior advisor Robert Traynham initially dismissed the seriousness of Davis’s biographical errors, Jansing immediately rushed to the Democrat’s defense.  Jansing asked:

could it just be she misremembered and when she went back and really looked at the facts -- sometimes I can't remember how old I am right now.

Does Ms. Jansing really think that a woman who is vying to be the next governor of Texas “misremembered” key details of her “compelling personal story?” Jansing doubled down on her defense of Davis and asserted that maybe she “went back and really looked at the facts,” a laughable and partisan attempt by the MSNBC host to defend Ms. Davis at any turn.

Jansing’s quick, almost instinctual reaction to defend Ms. Davis, exposes the agenda MSNBC truly has when it comes to Ms. Davis. Ever since her filibuster against new abortion safety laws failed, MSNBC and its sister outfit NBC News have gone out of its way to unofficially campaign on the Texas Democrat’s behalf. Just last week, Jansing’s colleague Maria Shriver offered a glowing profile of the “overnight sensation” that is Wendy Davis. What's more, Davis is featured prominently in recent "Lean Forward" promo spots the network incessantly runs.

As the 2014 gubernatorial election in Texas nears, we should expect more Davis defenders to pop up on MSNBC and NBC, as they seem intent on getting the severe Democratic underdog elected governor of Texas.


See relevant transcript below.


Jansing & Co.

January 21, 2014

10:30 a.m. Eastern

CHRIS JANSING: Democratic rising star Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is firing back against allegations that she misrepresented her compelling personal history. It was a relatable story of the struggles of a young mother who overcame adversity to graduate from Harvard law. A centerpiece of her campaign against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Well, over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News noted that while the basic story is true, some of the details are not. For example, Davis had been 21, not 19, not a teen mother, when she divorced and was living in a trailer park alone with her daughter. Yesterday, Davis tweeted, "Two days ago Abbott and his campaign sunk to a new low, making personal attacks on my family, my education, and my character. Attacks won't work, mine is the story of millions of Texas women who know the strength it takes when you're young, alone, and a mother." An Abbott spokesman then released a statement that read in part, "Senator Wendy Davis systemically, intentionally, and repeatedly deceived Texans for years about her background, yet she expects voters to indulge her fantasy narrative." Let me bring in Jason Stanford a Democratic consultant and partner with the Truman National Security Project. Robert Traynham is an MSNBC contributor and former Bush/Cheney senior adviser. Good morning, gentlemen. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News here's what Wendy Davis explained, "My language should be tighter. I'm learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail." Robert is this much ado about nothing, or could this be a real problem for Wendy Davis?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM: Well, I think it is much ado about nothing and can be a problem for Senator Davis. Here's why, it's not a question about being tight or not, just being truthful. You know, I don't understand why you have to embellish on something like this that is so easy. Look, the fact of the matter is, is that it seems she was a single mother, regardless of when she was a single mother or not and the fact of the matter is that she graduated from Harvard Law School. That's admirable. That’s something to be very proud of. And so to embellish as to whether or not you lived in a trailer park, or whenever you divorced, whatever the case may be, I just simply don’t understand. I mean this is the small stuff. However--

JANSING: Well, could it just be she misremembered and when she went back and really looked at the facts -- sometimes I can't remember how old I am right now.

TRAYNHAM: To be honest with you Chris, I’ve worked on many, many campaigns, and that's the reason why you do research opposition, that’s the reason you do opposition research on yourself and that’s the reason why you read everything before it goes out, because these are the little things that can get you into big trouble, and the reason why it can get you into big trouble, is because the constituents out there will take a look at this and say, wait a minute, if you really can't tell the truth about the small stuff, how am I going to believe you on the big stuff?

JANSING: Well, the part of the Republican argument is that she did not just talk about this, but she also touted this personal story in an ad campaigns. Here's one with her daughter.

AMBER DAVIS: She was raised by a single mother with a sixth grade education, she married young, and by 19 was divorced and raising me as a single mother. You know how they say everything's bigger in Texas? Well, that certainly wasn't the case for the trailer we lived in.

CHRIS JANSING: Jason, part of her campaign strategy is to woo women voters with this story of struggle, as we said, something relatable. She grabbed national attention of course with her 11-hour filibuster back in June. She puts herself forward as a fighter for women. Does this hurt her credibility?

JASON STANFORD: No, not at all. I think these were mistakes of memory, not of intent, in fact, there were more inaccuracies in the article than there are in her own stated narrative. The reason conservatives are making a lot of this, and I congratulate my counterpart for saying this is much ado about nothing, but down here in Texas, this is the biggest thing anyone is talking about because Wendy Davis does have a compelling narrative and they need to knock it down. And by the way she’s raising more money than he is. She is a legitimate threat to Greg Abbott and that is why they are attacking her, but Wendy Davis doesn't need her ex-husband, who was quoted in the article, by the way, or Greg Abbott, or any republican to mansplain her life story to her. The basic facts are this that she rose from virtually nothing. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, for crying out loud. She was a teenaged mother in a trailer park. She rose out of that, got into Harvard Law School and now state senate. This is a great Texas story. The article changes none of that.

JANSING: Well, one of the other complaints on the Republican side is that on her website she does not mention that her ex-husband helped to put her through school.

STANFORD: Oh, boo-hoo. I think we can all assume that when she was married and going to law school that her husband helped. In fact, it’s a community-property state and she was working at the time, so to say that her husband put her through law school when they both took out loans for this is really demeaning to women. I think there are a lot of women out there who, you know, have put their husbands through medical school and what not, but everyone works together to do this and that he complained in the article about paying her law school payments when she had been a working lawyer for ten years after law school and contributing to that, I think, is really awful. God forbid any of us have our life story subject to our ex’s having veto power. I think that is beyond the pale.

JANSING: There are, obviously, polls on the race and it's a very tightly watched race. She did get so much publicity when she did that filibuster Robert. She also raised $12 million for her gubernatorial campaign although overall she still trails Greg Abbott, who's raised about $27 million. Is that how we're really going to track how this is affecting her when we look at some future fundraising numbers, Robert?

TRAYNHAM: Well, I don't think fundraising numbers alone can determine whether or not she's going to win or not. I think we have to take a look at the personal opinion polls. I think you have to take a look at the unfavorability rating there. Look, the fact of the matter is that, there are a lot of Texans out there that are scratching their heads. I don't live in the state but I have a lot of friends in Texas that say you know what she has a compelling story, there's something there, however, Texas still is an overwhelmingly conservative state and so the question becomes is whether or not Abbott can pull through and according to the polling numbers, and also according to his latest fundraising numbers, it looks like he very will pull this through. Texas is still a Republican state. Let's just be honest about it.

JANSING: Robert Traynham, Jason Stanford. Not the last time we'll be talking about Wendy Davis, I'm sure. Thank you, both.