Conservative Activists Accidentally Publish Audio Mocking Abbott For Using Wheelchair

Gov. Greg Abbott (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
June 19, 2020 4:15 p.m.

The conservative advocacy group Empower Texans accidentally published audio of two of their members mocking Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is paralyzed below the waist and uses a wheelchair.

Ironically, this is the same group that weaponized a recording once before — in June of 2019, Empower Texans president Michael Quinn Sullivan clandestinely recorded the Texas House Speaker, and ultimately forced him to drop his reelection bid.

This time, the recording of the comments was seemingly accidentally distributed with the podcast the group puts out, called Texas Scorecard Radio. 

The audio, first spotted by the local Quorum Report, captures Cary Cheshire, vice president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which is under the Empower Texans umbrella, and Tony McDonald, general counsel for Empower Texans, discussing their dislike of Abbott.  

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“I said Abbott ‘wheeled himself out there,’” Cheshire said after the two finished recording a segment for the podcast.

“I’m okay with it,” McDonald interjects, laughing.

“And then within seconds, you demanded that he ‘stand firm,’” Cheshire added.

Abbott was hit by a falling tree while jogging in Houston in 1984, when he was 26. It struck his back and he was immediately paralyzed from the waist down.

They later discuss Abbott’s squishiness on mandating mask usage, letting profanities fly freely. 

“I hate him. I truly hate him,” McDonald says at one point. 

Abbott’s communications director John Wittman called the audio “disgusting.”

“It reveals a lot about an organization’s character and morals that uses profanity to mock a person in a wheelchair, and this audio is disgusting and hate-filled,” Wittman  said in a statement. “It is sad to think about what else this group may be saying about people behind their backs when they think they aren’t being recorded.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called the two conservative activists “persona non grata” in his book, along with anyone who doesn’t condemn the comments. 

“The hateful Empower Texans attack mocking Governor Abbott is outrageous, vulgar and completely unacceptable,” he added in a tweet.

Sullivan released a statement addressing the episode on Twitter, saying he was “heartbroken” by the comments. 

“Both have been suspended from all public activities with the organization immediately, and additional internal actions will be taken,” he wrote of Cheshire and McDonald. “Whether it was a private call or not is unimportant; it is wrong and unacceptable. I have already sent a personal apology to Gov. Abbott.” 

This time around, Empower Texans has been hoisted by its own petard. 

Last summer, Sullivan recorded the state House speaker, Dennis Bonnen, making disparaging comments about both Democrats and his fellow Republicans.

The recording also captured Sullivan being given a list of Republicans to attack in the primaries with his well-funded super PAC in exchange for long-desired press credentials for his pseudo-news site.

Bonnen, still in his first term as speaker, decided not to seek reelection at all as a result of the scandal. Rep. Dustin Burrows (R), then chair of the Republican caucus who also attended the meeting, resigned from his leadership position.

Listen to Cheshire and McDonald’s conversation here:

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