"I said terrible things": Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen apologizes for Michael Quinn Sullivan meeting

Texas Tribune News

Speaker Dennis Bonnen during the Texas Fallen Heroes ceremony  on May 25, 2019
Speaker Dennis Bonnen during the Texas Fallen Heroes ceremony on May 25, 2019
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has apologized to members for taking a meeting with hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan that has since thrown the lower chamber into chaos.

“I was stupid to take a meeting with an individual who has worked hard to divide our House,” Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, wrote to House members in an email Tuesday afternoon. “I said terrible things that are embarrassing to the members, to the House, and to me personally.”

Nearly two weeks ago, Sullivan, CEO of Empower Texans, accused Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, of offering his group House media credentials if the organization targeted a list of 10 GOP members in the 2020 primaries. Sullivan later revealed he had secretly recorded the June 12 meeting — and called on both Bonnen and Burrows to “recant their false claims.” If they did not, Sullivan said, he would feel obligated to release the recording, either in full or in part. Bonnen has forcefully pushed back against Sullivan’s account of the meeting multiple times. And Burrows has not responded publicly to the allegations.

Bonnen, along with other House members, has called on Sullivan to release the entire recording — a push the speaker emphasized in his Tuesday email, which was obtained by The Texas Tribune.

“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,” Bonnen wrote.

Bonnen in his email did not explicitly address Sullivan’s allegation that he and Burrows offered Empower Texans media credentials in exchange for targeting 10 GOP members.

Over the past week, a number of House Republicans have listened to the recording. One member who listened, Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, said Bonnen made “disparaging” comments about members during the meeting. Sullivan previously said that two House Democrats — Jon Rosenthal of Houston and Michelle Beckley of Carrollton — were the subject of “amusing (if slightly vulgar)” comments by Bonnen at the meeting.