Texas Governor Greg Abbott set off a firestorm of controversy yesterday when he bodyslammed a reporter and broke his glasses…
Just kidding. That, of course, was Montana’s new Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte. (Yeah, yeah, allegedly bodyslammed.)
Let’s try this again. Abbott caused a scandal when he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Congress Avenue and not lose supporters…
No, no. That was President Donald Trump, who made a similar claim about being able to shoot someone in the middle of New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
The actual cause for yesterday’s kerfuffle: Abbott waved around a scary-looking piece of paper.
On Friday, Abbott visited an indoor shooting range in South Austin to celebrate the signing of Senate Bill 16, which reduces the fees for handgun licenses, and as the Austin American-Statesman reported:
Abbott proved a good shot and, proudly displaying the target showing his marksmanship, the governor joked, according to the Texas Tribune reporter and photographer who were within earshot, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.”
In other words, Abbott acted like pretty much every single person who shoots a gun at a piece of paper and gets a nice grouping: waved it around and joked about intimidating the other people who are there. I’ve done it myself: after a morning shooting at a friend’s place in Florida a few years ago, I posted a photo of the target and joked that my guy friends were “all scared of me now.” Was I planning to shoot any of them? Of course not.
Abbott was never planning to shoot anyone either, but that hasn’t prevented a flood of hysterical articles bemoaning the governor’s “threat.” Here at Texas Monthly, Mimi Swartz worried about threats against journalists and pondered whether she could “depend on Abbott” to keep her safe. Ken Herman at the Statesman acknowledged that he knew Abbott was joking, but also wrote, “there’s nothing funny about threatened gun or physical violence against [journalists].”
Again, however, Abbott was not threatening anyone, and the members of the Texas political press corps know they faced no danger at all, except perhaps an inadvertent paper cut.
Quorum Report Editor Scott Braddock observed that there might be extra sensitivity lately because of Trump’s comments and the recent incident in Montana, but he scoffed at the idea that Abbott presented any danger.
“I can’t think of any Texas politician on either side of the aisle who I’m afraid would assault me—and I’m tough on them,” he said. When asked specifically if he worried about Abbott, Braddock gave an emphatic, “No. That’s easy.”
Another reporter who was present at the range with Abbott yesterday shared Braddock’s certainty: “No, I do not believe the governor is interested in physically hurting reporters in any way.”
Yet another member of the political press corps, who asked not to be named, said that it was possible a Texas elected official would physically assault a reporter, but “not any of the top three” and “absolutely not, never” Abbott.
There just simply isn’t a logical way to argue that any reporter in this state fears being shot or otherwise attacked by Abbott, especially among those who have covered him for years. You won’t find anyone who can argue with a straight face that he would ever act in such a way.
When Abbott tweeted the Gonzales flag and its “Come and Take It” motto in January 2016 in response to the Obama administration’s planned gun control efforts, he never actually pointed a cannon at President Obama.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 1, 2016
And in June 2015, when Abbott wanted to celebrate signing the open carry and campus carry bills, he celebrated exactly the same way he did yesterday: by going to a shooting range, this time in Pflugerville. Back then, he also displayed his target sheet with another nice grouping to the reporters present, and they somehow all survived the experience—no one even got a paper cut.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.