IssuesState HouseStatewide NewsSpeaker Bonnen Apologizes for Saying ‘Terrible Things’ as Fallout from Empower Texans Recording Continues

Speaker Dennis Bonnen sent an email to House members to apologize for statements he made in a meeting with Michael Quinn Sullivan and Rep. Dustin Burrows.
August 6, 2019
Today, Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) sent an email to members of the Texas House apologizing in light of the controversy surrounding his meeting with grassroots activist Michael Quinn Sullivan and Chairman Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock).

“I’m sorry. I was stupid to take a meeting with an individual who has worked hard to divide our House. It was a mistake.”

Bonnen admits to saying, “terrible things that are embarrassing to the members, to the House, and to me personally.”

Known for his temper and oftentimes brash communication style, Bonnen continued, saying, “You know me well enough to know I say things with no filter. That’s not an excuse for the hurtful things I said or the discussion that was had.”

He, again, called for the release of Sullivan’s audio “so the House is no longer held hostage, and we can begin to heal.”

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Sullivan tweeted a response within minutes of the email’s release posing a question to members of the legislature. 

“While on the topic of ‘dividing’ the House… Speaker [Bonnen] & [Burrows] were so eager and prepared to give ME a list of their acceptable targets… to whom did they give your name? Or when will they find you expendable?”

Bonnen’s admission comes on the same day that the director of a state-level government transparency advocacy group released an article on their website that contains what multiple witnesses who’ve heard the audio claim to be direct quotes from the recording.

Daniel Greer, executive director of Direct Action Texas, listened to the recording on August 4 and published his piece detailing the recording today.

According to multiple witnesses who spoke with The Texan on background, the contents of the article are accurate to their recollection.

Greer states that in the recording Bonnen explicitly told Sullivan, “Let’s go after these Republicans and, if we’re successful, beat some of these liberal pieces of s***.”

Though Bonnen initially denied ever giving Sullivan a list of members, the account stipulates that he named two members by name; Reps. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) and Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches). 

According to these accounts, Bonnen told Sullivan “between you and I, the Speaker of the House shouldn’t tell you who to pop. [Burrows] has some folks if you want to go pop.”

Referring to the claim made by Sullivan that the list was initially comprised of some members who opposed the taxpayer-funded lobbying restriction bill this session, Burrows allegedly called Clardy the “ringleader of all opposition” to the measure and said he and Bonnen would be “thrilled” if he was to be replaced.

Bonnen also mentions his predecessor, Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), allegedly stating that Sullivan knew, even better than Burrows or Bonnen did, what the House “had to deal with for the last 10 years.”

Bonnen served as speaker pro tempore under Straus’ speakership.

Bonnen ends his email announcing his intent to visit with each member and apologize to each personally. 

Questions still remain regarding Bonnen alleging he was the one to “take” the meeting with Sullivan, as Sullivan says he was invited to meet with the Speaker in order to hear his offer of House media credentials in exchange for political muscle.

It remains to be seen what political fallout may occur in the wake of Bonnen’s statement and whether Sullivan will release the tape publicly.


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McKenzie DiLullo

McKenzie DiLullo serves as Senior Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.