Politifact Faults Perry for Believing Wendy Davis' Misleading Statements

Politifact is at it again. Last week they decided to fact check a statement made by Gov. Rick Perry and found it “Half True” even though Perry was merely taking Davis’ own misleading claims at face value.

Last week at a National Right to Life event, Gov. Perry said of Davis “In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single mother. She was a teenaged mother
herself.” The left, led by Think Progress, attempted to gin up outrage about this statement claiming it was an attack on single mothers. Politifact decided to weigh in last Thursday and found Perry’s claim half true:

Perry said Davis, “born into difficult circumstances,” was the daughter of a single mother and a teenage mother herself.

His statement, offered in the cause of a law to curb abortions, could
leave the incorrect impression that Davis was born to a struggling
single mother, which is not so, best we can tell. Still, the senator’s
parents divorced midway through her childhood and Davis spent at least
part of her adolescence in a one-parent home. Also, Perry is correct
that Davis was a teenage mother herself.

This partially accurate claim distorts important details. We rate it as Half True.

Where might Gov. Perry have gotten the misleading impression that Wendy Davis was born into “difficult circumstances?” Politifact points out that Davis’ own website says “She began working after school at 14 to help support her single mother and three siblings.” The same line appears on this Wendy Davis website as well. What these sites do not say is that her mother had only recently become single, having divorced when Davis was 11 years old. The impression is given that Davis grew up in a single parent home.

And this misleading claim does not only appear on he official websites. In 2011 Davis gave an interview to a group called Generation
Texas. Video of the interview is available on You Tube (see below). The
clip opens with Davis saying “I was raised by a single mom.” Absolutely no one hearing that self-description would assume Davis meant she was raised by a single mom after the age of 11.

In short, Wendy Davis has repeatedly and intentionally sought to give people the impression that she was “raised by a single mom.” It’s actually this claim by Davis which should be rated “half true” for failing to mention the first 11 years of her life. But rather than hold Davis accountable, Politifact faults Gov. Perry for taking her misleading claims at face value.

Update: Drew Belsky makes a good point on Twitter. What choice did Perry have here?

In other words, imagine if Gov. Perry had decided to question Sen. Davis’ life story and point out that she grew up in a two parent family (contrary to the impression left by her website and public statements). Perry would have been lambasted for calling Davis a liar and for implying her upbringing did not constitute “difficult circumstances.” It’s just incredible that Politifact found a way to fault Perry for believing Davis’ own story.


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