By Ryan M. Leach
Forty-nine people were murdered and 53 others were injured early Sunday morning in the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando. A large majority of the victims were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender men and women. Merely hours after what ended up being the worst mass shooting in recent American history, the Texas lieutenant governor posted this on his official Twitter account:
“Do not be deceived.
God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows.”
The backlash to this posting was immediate and scathing. The Texas lieutenant governor and the LGBT community are hardly friends. Dan Patrick is famous for his ongoing, patronizing, and offensive rhetoric against the LGBT community. His most recent tirade was a series of press conferences attacking the Fort Worth ISD Board of Trustees for amending language in their policy that would allow transgender students to have access to a gender-neutral restroom facility. He called for the termination of the superintendent and created a firestorm of controversy that made national news.
Patrick was also a vehement opponent of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that failed in November 2015. He used personal campaign funds to run ads attacking the mayor and the ordinance—which would have prevented discrimination against 15 classes of Houstonians. Patrick said it would “allow men in women’s restrooms.” He has also said that he supports North Carolina-type laws that would overturn equal rights ordinances in other Texas cities and require transgender men and women to use the restroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate.
But it seemed like this particular tweet was low, even for Patrick. Was he really so vile that he would use religious scripture to justify the brutal murder of 49 people because they were gay? His track record with the community suggests that he would. Patrick has long used his religion to justify his far-right positions on many social issues that do not comport to his perception of who Texans and Americans are. He never misses an opportunity to condemn the LGBT community. From the perspective of many, Patrick was being just as vile and disgusting as he usually is.
Hours after the tweet, Patrick’s office responded to the controversy by removing it. They explained that this was a pre-approved post that the lieutenant governor had already scheduled prior to the events of Sunday morning. Then they added a nice little plug for his fundraising website at the bottom of the release.
I wasn’t buying this. I used to work for an elected official. It is no easy task. By the time the tweet was posted, the news of the massacre had been around the world twice. It would have been impossible for the person in charge of tweeting not to have heard about it. It would have been even more unlikely that a professional on the level of a press director for the lieutenant governor of the state of Texas not to take pause and say, “You know what, this might be misconstrued considering current events. Let’s not post this right now.”
But you see that didn’t happen. It did get posted. And it lingered there for hours. So, I wondered, who got fired? This is a national controversy. This makes Dan Patrick look like one of the worst human beings on Earth. There is no way that someone is not getting canned for this screw-up. But no one got fired.
Eventually Patrick himself found a computer on the remote island where he was vacationing and sent his own response. I was anxious to read it. Surely it would start off with an apology for the terrible mistake that his office made. Then it would be followed with information that the person who released this has been terminated. Then it would say all the standard post-massacre stuff about “thoughts and prayers.” But that didn’t happen either.
What did happen was a rambling and rather patronizing political statement reiterating the concocted story about the “pre-approved” tweet and then droning on about what he meant in sending it. He actually doubled down on the posting, insisting he only took it down because he was getting so many hateful comments. So, I guess he was okay with it being posted? The dead gay people reaped what they sowed?
Here’s the deal: I don’t buy this story about the “pre-approved” tweet being mistakenly posted. I think he posted it on purpose to make a point that if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, then you probably got what you deserve. I believe this for a few reasons.
- Patrick claims that he has always posted a tweet on Sundays with scripture in it. This is true. He does. And that tweet usually has the phrase “Have a blessed Sunday.” But on this Sunday, he posted two tweets, the first with the verse from Galatians 6 —sans his standard Sunday greeting. The second one, a less controversial verse with the standard greeting. I have learned in my time as a lawyer and a teacher that patterns are important. People rarely break patterns. It’s how we know when folks are lying to us. So, why on this Sunday does a new, inconsistent pattern emerge?
- No one was fired. I learned in my time working for an elected official that if you create a major scandal for an elected official—say, a national evisceration for being a nightmare person—then you will be fired. You will be fired so fast it will make your head spin. So why isn’t the press director or head tweeter or whoever is responsible for these posts not fired? Common sense says this was not a good day to tweet “reap what you sow.”
- Dan Patrick doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. He hasn’t earned it. I was offended by the tweet, but I wasn’t surprised. This tweet seemed to track with how Patrick says he feels about the LGBT community. So when someone walks like a homophobic, evangelical, nut-job duck, and they quack like a homophobic, evangelical, nut-job duck, then it’s probably the lieutenant governor of the state of Texas. Except in this case, it was a tweet, not a quack.
- Dan Patrick hates gay people. Girl, I don’t know why you all gaggin’, he brings it to you every chance he gets.
So, I don’t believe Dan Patrick when he says this tweet was a mistake. I know he isn’t sorry because he never actually apologized. But it doesn’t change anything for either of us. He doesn’t like LGBT Texans, and most of us don’t like him.
What of the consequences for Dan Patrick? There won’t be any. Even if he had left the tweet up and admitted to posting it, he will still get elected again and he will still have a majority of Texans supporting him. Not because Texans support his values, but because most Texas voters are asleep when it comes to who they have put into office.
Wake. Up. Texas!