A video of Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) slurring his words and swaying back and forth while on the dais has led some observers to speculate that he may have been drunk.
Nearly five hours and 29 minutes into the second part of the House’s meeting on May 19, Speaker Phelan can be seen noticeably slurring his words and being seemingly unsteady on his feet.
Several hours earlier, the last Phelan had spoken on the floor, his speech was crisp. However, for the rest of the night, the speaker appeared to be struggling to talk.
Former Rep. Jonathan Stickland shared a video of Speaker Phelan on Twitter:
Anyone who watches the #txlege House knows many of the members are regularly intoxicated.
Watching the Speaker be this wasted is absolutely unacceptable.
These Representatives are making laws that impact 30 million Texans. It must stop.pic.twitter.com/ETYH1sue9j
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) May 21, 2023
Stickland commented, “Anyone who watches the #txlege House knows many of the members are regularly intoxicated. Watching the Speaker be this wasted is absolutely unacceptable.”
“These Representatives are making laws that impact 30 million Texans. It must stop,” he added.
Sara Gonzales, a political commentator and director of child advocacy group Defend Our Kids: TX, tweeted, “So @DadePhelan, can you explain what’s going on here?”
The president of the Texas Coalition for Freedom, Sarah Fields, reacted similarly to the video, saying, “Either @DadePhelan is drunk or he’s making some sort of horrible joke.”
“I’ve heard people on two day college party benders speak more clearly than this,” she continued. “Is this going to be investigated? Are we allowed to ask about beverage consumption in an open record?”
Lynn Davenport, a Dallas-area education activist, shared a video that fellow activist Mary Lowe recently took that she said showed an alcohol station being set up in the hallway behind the House floor.
Davenport explained, “When @MaryDunlaphome & I went upstairs to ‘Capital Clubhouse’ offices to drop off some information on bad #EdTech bills we saw the stage being set.”
“Here is @DadePhelan’s bartender at 2:47 in the afternoon. Slosh starts at 3:00…on the daily with [other people’s money]!”
Some have called for consequences, and Tim Hardin, the CEO of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, responded to the video of Speaker Phelan by saying, “Resign!”
Others, however, worried that it might have been a stroke or some undisclosed medical condition.
In a tweet that has garnered nearly a million views, Greg Price said, “it appears that TX House Speaker Dade Phelan is either really drunk or having a stroke.”
Robert Smith asked, “Did he just have a stroke,” while local media outlet Current Revolt suggested it “Might be a medical condition.”
Sheena Rodriguez, the president of Secure the Border, tweeted, “For those who automatically made post claiming that Phelan was undoubtedly drunk, I sure hope y’all checked and triple checked actual evidence to make sure that was in fact the case.”
“I rarely drink any alcohol and there are many times I struggle to string together anything coherent bc of fibromyalgia & chronic vestibular migraines,” Rodriguez explained. “Lack of sleep makes it even worse. Half the time I’m lucky I can walk straight bc of my conditions.”
Similarly, Texas GOP committee member Morgan Cisneros Graham said, “The clip left out the normal speech preceding and following. I slur like this when my FMS flares or silent migraines (which is a neurological issue) are in the offing and worry about people doing precisely what is happening and jumping to conclusions.”
“One doesn’t get advanced warning of these episodes either,” she added.
So far, Speaker Phelan has not released any statement explaining the nature of his condition during deliberation on the House floor.
The controversy comes as the House stands adjourned until Monday, May 22, at 1 p.m., potentially jeopardizing several key legislative items sought by the Texas Republican Party, as reported by The Dallas Express.