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Texas House Speaker apologizes for secret recording


Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, sent an email Tuesday afternoon to every member of the Texas House apologizing for remarks he made in a secret recording by a conservative activist.

Michael Quinn Sullivan made the recording recently in a meeting with Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows. In the recording, which High Plains Pundit has not independently heard, Bonnen reportedly tells Sullivan that he’ll grant press credentials to his staff at Empower Texans if Sullivan in turn agrees to campaign against a handful of House Republicans.

Here is Bonnen's email to Texas House members:

Dear Members,

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.

I said terrible things that are embarrassing to the members, to the House, and to me personally. 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.

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. 

I have reached out to many of you, and I want to visit with all of you. I hope I have the chance to apologize to you personally. 

I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart. I ask for your forgiveness, and I hope to rebuild your trust.

 -Dennis

Bonnen acted Tuesday afternoon, more than five hours after Direct Action Texas, a grassroots conservative group critical of state GOP leaders, provided new and damning details of Bonnen and Burrows’ alleged targeting of incumbent House Republicans in a blog post.

On the Fort Worth-based group’s website, Greer, a former colleague of Sullivan’s, quoted Bonnen as labeling certain Democratic colleagues as “awful” and “vile,” while he said Burrows, the House GOP caucus’ chairman, derided fellow Republican Rep. Keith Bell of Forney as a "dumb freshman."

The controversy has gripped the state’s Republican Party for nearly two weeks after Sullivan, a frequent critic of GOP leadership, claimed in late July that Bonnen and Burrows had improperly offered to give Sullivan’s organization House media credentials in return for no further attacks - and help in defeating a group of 10 incumbent Republicans in next March’s primary.

Sullivan has refused to let news outlets listen to the recording, but has provided it to Republican lawmakers, party officials and conservative activists. At least six people who listened to it have confirmed Sullivan's account was accurate.

But it’s uncertain if Bonnen can survive politically as Speaker of the Texas House. He was elected in January.

Several lawmakers reached by High Plains Pundit this afternoon wondered how Bonnen would regain trust in the Republican Caucus.

Matt Mackowiak, president of the Potomac Strategy Group and chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said he thinks Bonnen can repair the political damage.

“Speaker Bonnen is beginning to do what he needs to do to remain Speaker. He is taking personal responsibility for this mess. His email ends any doubt that he said these things. He’s trying to talk to the other 149 members of the House personally. Politically speaking, I think this will stop the bleeding. As to the future, it depends on whether he can rebuild trust,” Mackowiak said.

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