In an email to members, Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) apologized for saying “terrible things that are embarrassing to the members, to the House and to me personally” during a June 12 meeting with Michael Quinn Sullivan, the CEO of Empower Texans, and Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), the Republican Caucus chair. Sullivan secretly recorded the conversation. A handful of Republican members and conservative activists say they have heard the recording, which has otherwise not been released.
“I was stupid to take a meeting with an individual who has worked hard to divide our house,” Bonnen said. “Once again, I call for the release of the entire unedited recording so the House is no longer held hostage, and we can begin to heal.”
Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston) is one of the members Bonnen is said to have disparaged during the conversation. In a statement, Rosenthal said he was at first “shocked and disappointed” at what was said. “Speaker Bonnen reached out to me, and we ended up having a long, thoughtful and emotional conversation about the comments he made,” Rosenthal said. “He made a mistake, as all humans do. He apologized, and I forgave him.”
In statements and online, a number of other members – mostly Republicans – expressed a similar combination of sadness and forgiveness. Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) tweeted he appreciated “Speaker Bonnen stepping up and acknowledging that he, like all of us, is fallible.” Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Allen) tweeted Bonnen’s “statement exhibits a refreshing humility that admits missteps and seeks to rebuild the trust that has been broken.”
Not all were so forgiving. Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) said in a statement that he found Bonnen’s “reckless ambition to be absolutely disgusting.” Parker is one of a handful of Republican legislators and conservative activists who have said they listened to Sullivan’s recording. He called on the Republican Caucus, which he formerly led, to investigate the incident. “Their actions directly contradict the bylaws and culture of our Caucus,” Parker said.
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