Elections

Jackson Lee claims ‘Whitmire operative’ leaked audio of congresswoman cursing at staff

Whitmire said he had no interest in anyone hearing the leaking recording.

Whitmire Jackson Lee
AP Photo/Eric Gay; AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Houston mayoral candidates Texas Sen. John Whitmire, left, and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

In a mayoral debate Monday evening, U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee stood strong on the notion that an audio clip capturing her berating an employee with expletives was leaked by a “Whitmire operative” ahead of the early voting period.

In response, Texas Senator John Whitmire said he has never had any particular interest in anyone hearing the audio that caught Jackson Lee at the center of controversy.

“It is ridiculous to suggest I would want anyone to hear those words,” Whitmire said. “I have not said one negative word in this entire campaign about any of my opponents.”

The topic came up during the last mayoral debate before election day Nov. 7 and was the first time the two had the opportunity to go back and forth on the clip. The Jackson Lee campaign claims it has proof linking the Whitmire campaign to the leak of the audio.

“I have made my statement,” Jackson Lee said Monday evening after being asked if it was her voice in the recording that made rounds on social media. “If I offended anyone it is with regret. But clearly, that was a Whitmire operative who attempted to place that in the midst of the early vote.”

“…And clearly I think what our focus should be, not to be distracted on that,” she said. “It is a double standard, and I hear a lot of tough talk from men and no one wants to comment on that.”

Whitmire responded to her accusation in disapproval.

“People want to go to work for me because we make a difference, so to divert attention from the words on that audio is just that, a diversion,” Whitmire said. “John Whitmire has no interest in anyone hearing that, particularly the congresswoman’s children.”

In a nearly 2-minute audio clip, released just days ahead of the early voting period, caught Jackson Lee arguing with a staff member, firing off expletives and insults.

"Two goddamn big ass children," she said of her staff members in the recording. "F–king idiots— serve no goddamn purpose."

"Nobody knows a goddamn thing in my office," she said in the recording.

"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 said in a statement days after an email containing the audio was sent out to several Houston news outlets.

Jackson Lee was ranked sixth place in a “worst bosses in Congress poll from LegiStorm, based on employee turnover rates in the House. LegiStorm said the statistics don’t reveal if the high turnover stems from a toxic work environment or employees advancing in their careers, according to a 2018 Politico article.