IssuesState HouseThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Highlights from Bonnen’s Radio Appearance

In this edition — Texas Speaker Dennis Bonnen took to radio to apologize for last year's missteps, while still laying blame with Michael Quinn Sullivan.
March 13, 2020
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Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) made waves this week after finally breaking his silence on Chad Hasty’s radio show in West Texas. 

Last year, Bonnen came under fire and decided against running for reelection after a recording of a private meeting with grassroots leader Michael Quinn Sullivan and Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) was released.

In the recording, Bonnen is heard offering Sullivan’s group, Empower Texans, Texas House media credentials in exchange for Sullivan’s targeting of a select group of 10 Republican state representatives

“…[Burrows will] show you the list of who we hope someone will show up and we hope you will fund,” said Bonnen in a now-infamous quote.

For weeks, Bonnen had denied Sullivan’s allegations, until the recording was finally released that corroborated Sullivan’s story.

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He later announced he would not run for reelection.

Here’s a look at the takeaways from Bonnen’s interview:

Bonnen Apologized, But Still Laid Blame with Sullivan

  • “If you listen to the recording, I did a horrible job. I screwed up badly.”
  • “As I’ve told people, if you want to hate me I gave you reasons to hate me. If you want to love me, I gave you reason to love me. And if you want to fall in the middle, I gave you reasons to look at it from both directions.”
  • “But the reality of it is, a lot of that is the spin of Mr. Sullivan. I wasn’t in the meeting when that discussion happened, but it was simply a discussion that happens at the capitol every single day. It was going through a record vote that any Texan could pull up on their phone, just as I believe Mr. Burrows did, on a very important conservative issue that just passed last week in the Republican primary with 93-94% statewide — which was ending taxpayer-funded lobbying.”
  • “The biggest apology, really, is for Mr. Burrows. He never should’ve been in that meeting.”
  • “I apologized for the content [of the meeting], but I’m not going to roll over and die for Mr. Sullivan, which is his goal. It’s what this man does to people and it’s frankly why I’m speaking now.”

Relationships With Other House Members

  • “I’ve apologized repeatedly. I’ve spoken to almost all of them — some of them are unwilling to talk. But respectfully to all of them, when you listen to the recording, it’s a record vote that they proudly stood behind. And that’s what we always have to do, you stand behind the vote you take. It’s that simple.”

The Intent of the Meeting

  • “I frankly just wanted to visit with him about stopping his continual attacks on conservative Republicans in the Texas House…That was the desire and the hope.”
  • When asked by Hasty if he went into the meeting with the names of legislators in mind that he would be ok with Sullivan targeting, Bonnen said, “No, I ran my mouth. And I candidly was trying to appease the man because in the last decade he’s never been able to control himself without going after people.”

Sullivan Responds

In a written piece entitled “Bonnen’s New Statement, Same Old Deceit” on Empower Texans’ website, Sullivan addressed what was said by Bonnen.

  • “Mr. Bonnen has chosen to double-down on what got him in trouble in the first place: not – as he claims – his ‘leadership style’ or ‘direct approach,’ but a troubling pattern of deceitfulness and unethical behavior.”
  • “Any politician who complains about citizens having ‘power’ is betraying their opposition to our very system of self-governance, in which the elected officials are to be servants of the citizenry. They don’t want citizens speaking without the politicians‘ self-serving permission.”

Click here to read a transcript of the recording.

Click here to read our coverage of the recording and what was actually said by each party.

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Interim 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.