Last year, many Texans comported themselves in an admirable, even heroic manner. But too many other Texans seemed quite happy to try to compensate for all that decency by acting in an idiotic, even malevolent fashion. Craven politicians, heartless corporations, inebriated marksmen, clueless members of the fourth estate, and a whole host of individuals who really, really should not be allowed around children—those were the people and entities who seemed all too intent on confirming the worst stereotypes the rest of the world  has about Texas. And perhaps inventing a few new ones.

Let’s take a moment to remember a whole bunch of nincompoops—and worse!—we hope to someday forget.

Tied for the Bum Steer of the Year

Beto O’Rourke

For abandoning the state that had lifted him up from obscurity, Beto O’Rourke is the winner of one half of our Bum Steer of the Year Award! Read More

Dennis Bonnen

For breaking new ground in being bad at being bad, Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen has earned the other half of our Bum Steer of the Year Award! Read More


The Astros

For squandering the unwavering love of their home city and the respect of their home state, the Houston Astros earned a spot as our runner-up! Read More

(Dis)honorable Mentions / The Rest of the Herd

Maybe they meant the Oklahoma border?

Fox News hosted a town hall focused on immigration that was advertised as “Battle at the Border”—even though it was presented at a San Antonio resort located more than 150 miles from Mexico.

Girl, delete your account

Rachel Hollis, the Austin-based best-selling author of self-help books such as Girl, Wash Your Face, was accused of plagiarizing numerous inspirational quotes that appeared on her popular Instagram account.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Captain Morgan has turned on the seat belt sign”

A 21-year-old Texas Christian University student who had recently been dumped by his girlfriend via text message boarded a Dallas-bound British Airways flight in London with a liter of Bacardi rum and became so drunk that he assaulted passengers and crew and forced the plane to return to London, where he was promptly arrested.

And the Lord sayeth, “Oops!” 

Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who in 2015 called Donald Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” revealed to Fox News that he recently told the president that Trump was “the chosen one.”

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Who knew that “AR” stands for “asinine retort”? 

Republican state representative Briscoe Cain responded to Beto O’Rourke’s widely publicized comment “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” by tweeting, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.”

Maybe he was wearing steer goggles

A man in Starr County who was arrested in March for allegedly having sex with a cow was arrested again in September for driving while intoxicated.

If only he had shaved his initials into it 

Congressman Joaquin Castro and his identical twin, presidential candidate Julián Castro, were repeatedly misidentified as each other by media outlets such as MSNBC and the New York Times—even after Joaquin, tired of the mistake, grew a beard.

“Actually we’re kind of glad she took those tacky candlesticks from Pier 1 off our hands”

A woman dubbed “the Wedding Crasher” was charged with felony theft after she allegedly posed as a guest at multiple wedding receptions in Comal and surrounding counties and made off with gifts intended for the newlyweds.

Use the promo code “Emergency Landing”

Less than a year after a Southwest Airlines passenger was killed after being partially sucked out of an airplane window, the Houston Chronicle, promoting a story about the airline, tweeted, “Cheap deals to Hawaii are flying out the window fast.”

Justice is blind—or at least has trouble reading the fine print

In April, Harris County Civil Court Judge Bill McLeod announced his intention to run for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court—and then learned that by doing so, he had, according to the Texas constitution, effectively resigned his current judgeship, which he’d won election to just five months earlier.

It will go down in history as a Category 5 blunder

A federal disaster relief bill, which had languished for months in Congress before finally passing in the Senate by an 85–8 margin—including the support of both Texas senators—was held up yet again by Austin congressman Chip Roy, who objected that the bill didn’t include money for border security, thus delaying billions of much-needed dollars in hurricane-ravaged areas of the state.

She must hate jokes, because this one fell flat on her

While speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said that Governor Greg Abbott, who in 1984 was paralyzed from the waist down after being crushed by a falling tree, “hates trees because one fell on him.”

Like a clue, maybe? 

White students at Houston’s Memorial High School posted photos of themselves on social media sporting fake tattoos, gold chains, cornrows, and do-rags for the school’s unofficial “Thug Day.” Said one defender of the students, “If that’s racist, then I must be missing something.”

For all you do, this cell’s for you

A man who thought that he had violated parole in Parker County mustered the courage to turn himself in by chugging seven Budweiser beers. But after surrendering himself to authorities, he learned that he had no outstanding warrants—and was promptly arrested and charged with public intoxication.

Parker County Jail

Acting secretary of state? Or acting crazy secretary of state? 

Acting Texas secretary of state David Whitley resigned after five months in office when it was revealed that he had challenged the eligibility of nearly 100,000 Texas voters by using flawed lists of people who were supposedly not citizens—tens of thousands of whom actually were citizens.

Get a rope? Get a Bum Steer! 

Upon hearing that a Veterans Day parade in his hometown of Stephenville had reportedly denied entry to a Confederate group, Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller asked, “Who told them to leave? Get a rope.”

To protect and publicly humiliate

Two white Galveston police officers sparked public outrage and an investigation by the Texas Rangers after they arrested a 43-year-old African American man for criminal trespass and then led him through the streets by a rope while they rode on horseback.

“Where’s the heartless emoji?”

Governor Greg Abbott, upset with new Austin ordinances that put fewer restrictions on the homeless, retweeted a video of a man acting violently on the city’s streets and wrote, “Austin’s policy of lawlessness has allowed vicious acts like this.” When it was pointed out that the video was taken before the ordinances had passed and that the man was not homeless, had never been homeless, and was experiencing a mental breakdown, Abbott refused to remove the tweet or acknowledge his error.

Our slogan: “Always low prices quality”

Attendees at a high school graduation party were surprised when they cut into the celebration cake, which had been purchased at a local Walmart, and discovered that it was made of Styrofoam.

The styrofoam cake.
Nellie Flores/ViralHog

On the upside, the tortillas are a steal at $27 apiece 

The menu of the newly opened Houston restaurant Guard and Grace featured a plate of fajitas for $400.

Hell, that’d get you fajitas for four at Guard and Grace

The bar at Tilman Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston unveiled the Black Gold, a hamburger with a $1,600 price tag.

Chicago? Whateverburger 

Whataburger, which was founded in Corpus Christi 69 years ago and has been a Texas entity ever since, sold a majority stake in the company to a Chicago investment firm, thoroughly annoying many of the chain’s loyal fans.

Sounds like it was—Hic!—an educational field trip

A former substitute teacher in Willis was arrested for taking a half-dozen female tenth and eleventh graders out of school on a Monday morning, bringing them to the Woodlands Mall, supplying them with alcohol, and then returning them to school in a drunken state.

“Do you want that for here or to go to jail?”

When a customer at a Houston Popeyes was informed that the establishment had run out of its wildly popular chicken sandwich, he pulled out a gun and demanded one anyway.

“Why, some of my favorite cable networks are black!”

Longtime Texas high school football referee Mike Atkinson was suspended after phone recordings featuring him repeatedly using the n-word were made public. “I’m a jokester,” he said in his defense. “I watch Black Entertainment Television all the time because I think it’s hilarious.”

Maybe “Lake Granbury is for lovers” wasn’t such a good idea for a promotional campaign after all

Texas game wardens caught a crapulous couple copulating in a boat on Lake Granbury.

This bipartisan bill was a terrific joint effort

A new law that legalizes hemp and hemp-derived products like CBD oil inadvertently redefined the legal meaning of marijuana, prompting some district attorneys around the state to stop pursuing misdemeanor pot possession cases.

No app could lower the charge of that booking

Actor Tim Williams, best known for his disheveled appearances in commercials for the Trivago discount travel app and website, was arrested for DWI in Houston when police found him asleep at the wheel in a moving lane of traffic.

What kind of sprinkles do you want on that: chocolate, rainbow, or controlled substance?”

An ice-cream truck operator in Austin was arrested following a traffic stop when a state trooper’s search turned up two baggies of methamphetamines.

In his defense, the purpose of the event was for educators to put their heads together

While attending a summertime training event in San Antonio, an El Paso schools superintendent, who was reportedly intoxicated, headbutted another superintendent late at night at a local Whataburger.

“I’ll have a Whopper to go; hold the droppings”

A Burger King in Harlingen closed down after a widely viewed video showed numerous rats scampering around the restaurant’s kitchen.

But you can keep the orange jumpsuit as our complimentary gift

A man who escaped police custody in Williamson County while handcuffed was apprehended and then charged with multiple offenses—including theft of the handcuffs.

Not OK, boomer

A longtime high school English teacher in Fort Worth tweeted a series of anti-immigration messages such as “Mr. President, Fort Worth Independent School District is loaded with illegal students from Mexico” under the belief that she was engaging in private communications with President Trump.

He looked good on paper, until they started reading the words

Texas congressman John Ratcliffe withdrew his nomination to be Donald Trump’s national intelligence director five days after it was announced, when media accounts revealed he had falsely claimed that as a federal prosecutor he had “arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day” and had exaggerated his role in the trial of an Islamic terrorist group.

To be frank, they mustard thought that we relish overspending

Neiman Marcus offered for sale an Italian-made “hot dog” couch, priced at $7,100.

The Seletti Sofa "Hot Dog," on sale at Neiman Marcus for $7,100 (plus an extra $295 for shipping).
Neiman Marcus

As a quick way to get arrested, it worked great

An intoxicated Austin man was taken into custody for allegedly firing his new gun out of the window of his home because, he told police, he wanted to “try it out.”

Hell, yes, we’re going to take your popsicles

A 28-year-old man posing as a door-to-door canvasser for Beto O’Rourke was arrested for breaking into a South Austin home and helping himself to a frozen treat.

It might not have been his first fake rodeo, but it was probably his last

A man suffered a nasty leg injury when he became so entangled in the workings of the mechanical bull at the Austin bar Buck Wild that firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to free him.

Last one to deny Texans a much-beloved swimming hole is a rotten egg! 

After a near-yearlong closure for repairs to its historic spring-fed swimming pool, Balmorhea State Park opened to much ballyhoo in March but then abruptly closed again in May for additional unplanned repairs and then opened again later that month and then closed again in September for repairs that will reportedly last through the spring, at the earliest.

At least that’s how it looks from their office, just a few minutes away from Key West

A story published by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, located in St. Petersburg, Florida, referred to Marfa as a “Dallas suburb” and stated that the Rio Grande Valley was “adjacent” to El Paso.

What’s next, a guacamole recipe that includes green peas? 

In a story about wealthy California millennials moving to Texas, the New York Times mentioned something called “brunch tacos.”

Maybe GOP stands for “Gaffes o’ Plenty”

The Texas Republican Party inadvertently emailed a draft of its 2020 electoral strategy to a number of Democrats, revealing plans to buy micro-websites dedicated to attacking specific candidates and expressing concerns about Donald Trump’s “polarizing nature.”

And about that mention of “drunks included” . . .

After a typo appeared in a newspaper announcing an event to be held at the Pflugerville Public Library, the library issued a public notice clarifying that there would not, in fact, be snakes at the event. “We will have snacks,” the statement explained. “Snacks is what we will have.”

Do you take this man to be your unlawful wedded husband?

An East Texas man who didn’t bother to disguise himself stole $7,000 from a Groveton bank to pay for his wedding the next day. After security camera images of him quickly circulated, he turned himself in, at his fiancée’s request, two hours after committing the robbery.

“Oh, you must be the repo man. Great to see you!”

A murder suspect in Houston who was out on bond and wearing a court-ordered ankle monitor went unmonitored for two weeks after the device was repossessed by a third-party vendor due to late payments.

His political career really hit a bump

Soon after Eagle Pass state representative Poncho Nevárez announced that he would not seek reelection, surveillance footage from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was released showing him dropping an envelope containing cocaine. Nevárez soon surrendered himself to authorities to face felony drug possession charges.

Legally speaking, she’s now facing a rocky road

A teenager in a Lufkin Walmart was videotaped by her boyfriend opening a half-gallon tub of Blue Bell Tin Roof ice cream, licking it, and then replacing the lid and putting it back in the freezer. After the video went viral, the perpetrator was easily identified by police, who sent the case to juvenile authorities.

The woman caught licking a carton of Blue Bell Ice Cream at a Walmart in Lufkin.
Lufkin Police Department

This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Bum Steer Awards.” Subscribe today.