Calls for Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) to explain concerning video from the floor have gone unanswered, as allegations of drunkenness and concern over a possibly undisclosed medical condition grow.
As reported by The Dallas Express, a video of the House floor during deliberations on May 19 showed Speaker Phelan struggling to speak and seeming unsteady on his feet. The footage went viral on Twitter, leading many to claim Phelan was drunk, while some worried he might have had a stroke.
Furthermore, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has called for Phelan to resign, pointing to the video as proof that the Speaker was “in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication,” as reported by The Dallas Express.
Paxton requested that the House’s General Investigation Committee look into the incident.
Speaker Phelan has been virtually silent on the issue, neither issuing a statement nor responding to requests for comment about whether he was drunk or suffering from a medical condition. This has led to accusations that Phelan is dodging the incident.
Tim Hardin, the president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, told The Dallas Express, “I think it is clear from the footage and the viral nature of the clip online that the vast majority of Texans are coming to the conclusion that something is off with the speaker.”
“The general consensus is that he is drunk. This is a natural conclusion since it is well known that Representatives drink on the floor often and it is not unheard of for there to be a bar set up in the back hallway,” he added.
Hardin noted, however, “It is entirely possible that there is a medical condition that caused this, and if that is the case, you would think the speaker would defend himself from the accusations on the internet.”
“I think the people of Texas deserve to know what happened that night, and it is concerning that Speaker Phelan has thus far decided to ignore the issue,” Hardin said. “This certainly only makes it seem more likely he was caught drinking, and would rather wait for it to exit the news cycle than address it.”
“If he does have a medical issue that is making him slur his words that much, the people of Texas deserve to know. It is my hope that the Speaker will offer comment and set the record straight soon,” he concluded.
However, at the same time, the House’s General Investigating Committee sent a letter of preservative to Attorney General Paxton.
“The House has been conducting an investigation related to your request for $3.3. million dollars of public money to pay a settlement resolving litigation between your agency and terminated whistleblowers,” the committee’s letter reads.
At this point, Speaker Phelan’s spokesman Cait Wittman issued a statement regarding the matter, claiming that “the motives for and timing behind Paxton’s statement today couldn’t be more evident,” per Brad Johnson of the Texans.
“Mr. Paxton’s statement today amounts to little more than a last ditch effort to save face,” she alleged.
However, the statement did not provide any explanation for Phelan’s behavior in the House and whether it was the result of intoxication or a medical condition.
Several attempts to contact Speaker Phelan’s office were unsuccessful, and he has not issued any response to the incident as of publication.
Regarding Paxton’s call for Phelan’s resignation, Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi told The Dallas Express, “The House should thoroughly investigate all appearances of impropriety and apply the rules fairly and evenly. We will withhold further comment until the factual record is more fully developed.”