An audio recording of U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston berating staff with expletives has gone viral.
The audio, as first reported by Texas news outlet Current Revolt, appears to be from a conversation between the Houston congresswoman, who has a reputation for being a difficult boss, and one of her staffers.
In the recording, Jackson Lee asks a male staffer: “You took a piece of paper from that woman regarding something that was owned by Duncantell. Where is it? What date was it?”
The staffer answered that another staffer had taken it and that he would have to call him, which angered the woman on the audio.
“I don’t want you to do a godd**n thing. I want you to have a f***king brain. I want you to have read it. I want you to say, ‘Congresswoman, it was such-and-such date.’ That’s what I want. That’s the kind of staff that I want to have,” Jackson Lee said, per the recording posted on Current Revolt.
The congresswoman continued using profanity as she cursed both the staffer present and another staffer for incompetence. She explained how she wants important calendar events handled, especially those from Ovide Duncantell, founder of the Black Heritage Society Inc., the New York Post reported.
The recording is believed to be at least a few years old, according to a report by ABC 13 Houston, and has come to light as Jackson Lee might be bringing her 28-year tenure to an end as she is the frontrunner in the Houston mayoral race.
Jackson Lee is leading in the polls for Houston mayor. In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, her campaign laid the blame for the audio release on backers of her primary opponent in the mayoral race, Texas Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston).
“‘This is a low-handed political tactic meant to discredit a thriving mayoral campaign and distract voters ahead of the early voting period,’ Jackson Lee’s campaign said in its statement to the Chronicle. ‘It’s unsurprising that these attacks have originated from extremely conservative blogs and political operatives backing John Whitmire.’”
Whitmire’s campaign responded to the aspersions, with his spokesperson Sue Davis telling the Chronicle, “We don’t know any of the people who put this out on Twitter. We know nothing about it other than what everybody else does. And to try to accuse our camp of leaking it is just trying to take attention away from what is in the recording.”
On Monday night, Jackson Lee released a statement admitting to the authenticity of the recording.
“I want to convey to the people of Houston that I strongly believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and that includes my own staff,” Jackson Lee said in the statement, as reported by Houston Public Media. “I know that I am not perfect. I recognize that in my zeal to do everything possible to deliver for my constituents I have in the past fallen short of my own standards and there is no excuse for that.”
“To anyone who has listened to this recording with concern, I am regretful and hope you will judge me not by something trotted out by a political opponent, that worked to exploit this, and backed by extreme Republican supporters on the very day that polls open, but from what I’ve delivered to Houstonians over my years of public service,” Jackson Lee continued in her statement.
Harris County Young Democrats, which previously endorsed both Jackson Lee and Whitmire, withdrew its support of Jackson Lee on Monday, saying the group has a “zero-tolerance policy for … staff abuse,” per The Texas Tribune.
The Dallas Express reached out to Rep. Jackson Lee’s office for comment but did not receive a response by publication time.