A year ago, in this very space, we referred to 2020 as “perhaps the craziest, stupidest, Bum Steeriest year in Texas Monthly’s history.” The unspoken assumption—or perhaps it was a desperate wish—was that 2021 would prove to be at least marginally saner than that misbegotten election year. And how did that go? Well, six days into the calendar, hordes of malefactors (including dozens of Texans) descended on Washington, D.C. Six weeks after that, Texas was plunged into a deep freeze and blackout that turned us into a national laughingstock and left hundreds dead. Throw in some extreme legislation, a pandemic that keeps driving us further apart instead of rallying us together, and the usual retinue of felons, freaks, and philanderers, and you’ve got a year that can proudly turn to 2020 and say, “Hold my beer.” 

Bum Steer of the Year

Greg Abbott

Six years after he became governor, we still don’t know what Greg Abbott wants to accomplish—except, as this year made clear, to hold on to office, no matter how many Texans get hurt. Read More

Runners-Up

Ted Cruz

The junior senator from the great state of Cancún had a very, very, very bad year. Maybe he’ll blame it on his daughters. Read More

Wanted! For Embarrassing Texas

An A-to-Z list of 25 Lone Star State residents who disgraced themselves last January 6. Read More

(Dis)honorable Mentions / The Rest of the Herd

He was rearrested with all deliberate speed

As a man was being released from the Killeen city jail, police say, a small baggie containing methamphetamine fell from his pants, at which point he was arrested again.

There’s personal checking, and then there’s really personal checking

A Houston Bank of America clerk was fired after allegedly stealing nude photos from the phones of two female customers whom he was assisting with online banking.

#ForTheOuch

A man in Houston accidentally shot a friend in the stomach while they were watching an Astros game because he forgot to make sure his chamber was empty before participating in their pastime of “dry-firing” guns every time the team scored a run.

Federal prison? That’d be a hard pill to swallow

The CEO of a Houston pharmaceutical company was arrested in connection with a $134 million health-care fraud scheme that enabled him to buy a $1.5 million mansion, a Ferrari, and a Bentley and to run up $15 million in gambling and casino expenses.

“Just to be clear: when I said ‘Bring it on,’ I wasn’t specifically referring to a subpoena”

Responding to questions about a controversial decision to award an $11 million contract for vaccine outreach to a Democratic data analyst who didn’t seem to be the most qualified choice, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo offered a defiant “Bring it on!” The contract was eventually canceled, and Hidalgo and every other member of the commissioners’ court, which selected the contractor, were served subpoenas over the matter. 

Th-th-th-th-th-that’s assault, folks!

A Hooks woman allegedly punched a police officer who was trying to capture a pig that had escaped her home. 

He went viral for going viral

A digital roadside construction sign in Flour Bluff was hacked by an unknown perpetrator and reprogrammed to alternately read “Thanks a Lot Stacy” and “Now I Have Herpes.” 

Yeah, we hate getting the middle seat too

On a flight to Houston, an intoxicated Universal City woman allegedly threw up on herself, took off her pants, fought with another passenger, and attempted to hit a flight attendant, forcing the plane to land in Mobile, Alabama. 

Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks in San Antonio removed its Donald Trump figure because visitors kept scratching and punching it.    

His brother, Screw You, says it’s all a big misunderstanding

A Weslaco man who allegedly signed a traffic citation “F— you” was charged with tampering with a government record.

Who knew that ballots could be disguised as a replacement evaporator assembly for an allied ClimateMaster 9300?

A former Houston police captain who was being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate claims of fraud in the 2020 election was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly rammed his SUV into an HVAC repairman’s truck, pulled a gun on him, and forced him to the ground, under the belief that the man was a “mastermind” who was transporting 750,000 fake ballots.

Back in the day, they were voted “Couple Most Likely to End Up as a Bum Steers Item”

A Dallas woman whose husband was murdered and who begged the public to help find his killer was later charged with orchestrating his death at the hands of an old high school boyfriend with whom she was having an affair. 

Well, at least Bush didn’t humiliate himself by kissing up to a man who called his father “an embarrassment to his family.” Oh, wait . . .

At an event officially announcing George P. Bush’s plan to run against Texas attorney general Ken Paxton in the Republican primary, his supporters gave out koozies that featured an illustration of Bush and Trump shaking hands alongside a quote that read, “ ‘This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him.’ —Donald J. Trump.” Soon after, Trump officially endorsed Paxton.

Maybe they should have passed a virus suppression bill

In mid-July, dozens of Texas Democratic legislators who broke quorum to protest a voter suppression bill by flying to Washington, D.C., were photographed maskless on their chartered flights—and six of them caught the coronavirus.

You may now kiss your credibility goodbye 

During the Democrats’ time in D.C., reports surfaced that state representatives Jessica González and Julie Johnson were vacationing in Portugal. “No one has shown proof,” González said. “These are rumors, period. End of story.” Two weeks later, González acknowledged that she had in fact been in Portugal (as had Johnson), for her long-planned wedding.

So are you at liberty to tell us now?

During an interview with CNN about the quorum breakers’ strategy, state representative Michelle Beckley struggled to offer straightforward answers. “Everything is a moving puzzle,” she said puzzlingly. “We do have plans. It’s not something we’re at liberty to tell you today.” Five weeks later, the group gave up, returned to the Lege, and sat by helplessly as the “election integrity” law was passed.

I will not say the quiet part out loud.
I will not say the quiet part out loud.
I will not say the quiet part out loud.

In a mortifying moment caught on video during a debate on the House floor, Republican state representative Briscoe Cain learned from Democratic state representative Rafael Anchía that the restrictive voting rights bill Cain was pushing through the Lege included a phrase, “purity of the ballot box,” that was used during the Jim Crow era to justify disenfranchising Black people.

Or, worse, make them listen to Louie Gohmert speaking

Representative Louie Gohmert stated on the floor of the U.S. House that Marxists like Bernie Sanders would send their own billionaire donors to the gulag or put them to death.

Stripes are going to look good on him too

A Houston man who was out on bond was arrested after he allegedly fled police in a car while accompanied by a tiger.

There’s plenty of evidence that he’s suffered from low oxygen levels for a long time now

Unvaccinated former GOP state chair Allen West, who is running against Greg Abbott in the Republican gubernatorial primary, spent much of 2021 railing against COVID-19 vaccines—and then was hospitalized with pneumonia and dangerously low oxygen levels caused by the coronavirus.  

But what has he done for us lately?

Police alleged that an inebriated man in El Paso stole a Krispy Kreme truck and proceeded to hit a pedestrian, collide with multiple vehicles, crash into a house, burglarize a 7-Eleven, lead officials on a chase, and then resist arrest.

SWA three-nine-nine-seven, you’re veering far right

A Southwest Airlines pilot who was taxiing in San Jose, California, was caught on a hot mic ranting about the Bay Area, describing its residents as “g—damn liberal f—s” and “f—ing weirdos” who “probably drive around in f—ing Hyundais.” 

SWA three-nine-nine-seven, you’re now dangerously far right

A Southwest Airlines pilot on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque, New Mexico, shocked passengers by saying, over the cabin PA, “Let’s go, Brandon,” a conservative code for “F— Joe Biden.” 

SWA three-nine-nine-seven, you seem to be in a perilously steep descent 

A Southwest Airlines pilot was cited for alleged assault and battery of a flight attendant during an argument about wearing face masks. 

He drew a line in the sandbox

After Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick pressured the Bullock Texas State History Museum to cancel a virtual appearance by two of the authors of the revisionist history Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, the museum withdrew as the event’s host. The book immediately became a best-seller.

It’s hard to keep track of these trivial details when you’re defending yourself against two criminal investigations and a lawsuit

Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Midway Independent School District, which is located outside Waco, for instituting a mask mandate—even though the district didn’t have a mask mandate

Philanderer? I hardly know ’er! Or her. Or her.

Jason Collier resigned as the police chief of Stinnett shortly after his wife and his girlfriends—who all believed they were in exclusive relationships with him—learned of one another’s existence from a Facebook post.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the alleged theft of millions of dollars’ worth of other people’s property

Two Lubbock postal contractors were arrested for allegedly stealing more than eight thousand pieces of mail—including cash, gift cards, and checks—worth more than $4 million.

She was caught red-handed

A woman climbed into an enclosure at the El Paso Zoo and attempted to hand-feed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to spider monkeys.

“Look, Eva,” Adolf said. “It’s a Jew!”
Eva laughed.
“Run, Jew, run!” she said.

A school district administrator in Southlake advised instructors who have books in the classroom about the Holocaust to also offer books with “opposing” perspectives.

All units, be on the lookout for a suspect: latex complexion, unnaturally red hair, approximately 17 inches tall

The Texas Department of Public Safety accidentally sent out a test message naming the horror character Chucky, from the Child’s Play movies, as a suspect in a child abduction.

Who probably tasted better than the beef with boiled peas that was served for lunch

An American Airlines passenger en route from Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport to Charlotte tried to open the cabin door while in the air and then bit a flight attendant.

In the store’s defense, the 2021 Monster Hydro Super Sport Red Dawg was an excellent vintage

A convenience store in the Waco area accidentally overcharged a man nearly $1,300 for a biscuit and a Monster energy drink.

He should’ve gone with plan B and hidden them inside bricks of cocaine

A man was apprehended at the Paso Del Norte border crossing in El Paso after he attempted to smuggle 31 rolls of bologna and 2 rolls of turkey ham into the U.S. by hiding them under blankets, beneath his car’s seats, inside the center console, and within a duffel bag.

Justice may be blind, but it isn’t deaf

Unhappy with a ruling by state district judge Mary Lou Alvarez during a Zoom court session, a San Antonio family law attorney responded by saying “What a bitch”—apparently unaware that she was unmuted and audible to the more than one hundred participants, including the judge, who temporarily banned her from the court.

“See you in the chapel over on E block” doesn’t have quite the same ring

William Neil “Doc” Gallagher, who famously used the tagline “See you in church on Sunday” in ads for his investment firm that appeared on Christian radio stations, was sentenced to three life terms by a Tarrant County district court judge for bilking nearly two hundred people out of $23 million in a Ponzi scheme.  

Apparently this whole “independence” thing only goes so far

A 61-year-old woman in Rockwall joined an Independence Day parade, allegedly uninvited, on her tractor before police arrested her for disorderly conduct.

Is this what the police mean when they refer to a “cold case”?

In January, a man who was allegedly caught stealing tires from a truck in Houston fled from police in his car, crashed into a tree, and then jumped into Buffalo Bayou, from which he had to be rescued after he suffered hypothermia.

Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the—okay, fine, here’s $25,000.

In late 2020, Dan Patrick attempted to support Donald Trump’s claim of a disputed election by offering a reward of at least $25,000 to anyone providing evidence leading to someone being convicted of voter fraud. Eleven months later, there had been only one claimant: a Pennsylvania Democratic poll worker whose tip led to the conviction of a Republican who voted twice in the election. 

The liberal media strikes again

Two days after the riot in Washington, the Tyler Morning Telegraph published a photo of protesters invading the Capitol, accompanied by the caption “Members of antifa dressed as supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of [the] U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington.”

We find her guilty of having lousy taste in nineties sitcoms

A woman who was updating her driver’s license in Texas discovered she had been charged with a felony after failing to return a VHS rental of Sabrina the Teenage Witch more than two decades earlier.

“With all due respect, Your Honor, we plan to appeal your decision to the high court of Gondor”

After showing up at the Washington, D.C., protest, Texas attorneys Paul M. Davis and Kellye SoRelle filed a lawsuit asking a U.S. district court to (a) declare the United States Congress illegitimate, (b) invalidate the confirmation of Joe Biden, and (c) stop law enforcement officials from arresting Davis and SoRelle for their actions at the Capitol. The Trump-nominated judge who heard the suit—which cited The Lord of the Rings as evidence—dismissed it as “without merit.”

“Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat that will help me forget the deeply disturbing tableau I encountered as I approached your door”

A Richmond woman’s front-yard Halloween decorations included skeletons posed as pole-dancing strippers.

Ask not what your country can do for Q, ask what the hell Q is doing to your country 

Hundreds of QAnon followers gathered at Dealey Plaza to wait for John F. Kennedy Jr. to return from the dead and announce that he would be Donald Trump’s running mate in 2024. 

“What’re you in for?”
“Murder.”
“You?”
“Robbery.”
“And you?”
“Well, it’s a funny story . . . ”

A San Antonio–area man who claimed he wanted to scare people away from some local grocery stores in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus was sentenced to more than a year in federal prison after falsely claiming on Facebook that he had paid someone infected with COVID-19 to lick food items at the shops. 

“Believe me when I say no one should ever believe me”

Attorneys who were defending Donald Trump’s Dallas-based former elections lawyer Sidney Powell in a billion-dollar lawsuit argued that her repeated claims that machines created by Dominion Voting Systems were rigged to throw the election to Joe Biden weren’t defamatory because they were so “outlandish” that “reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact.” 

Does this mean a directed verdict is out of the question, Your Honor?

After Powell and other attorneys filed an error-filled lawsuit seeking to negate the results of the 2020 presidential election, the judge hearing the case sanctioned Powell and her colleagues, stating that “despite the haze of confusion, commotion, and chaos counsel intentionally attempted to create by filing this lawsuit, one thing is perfectly clear: Plaintiffs’ attorneys have scorned their oath, flouted the rules, and attempted to undermine the integrity of the judiciary along the way.”

Losing the Infowars, one Infobattle at a time

Austin media mogul and former Bum Steer of the Year Alex Jones was found liable by default in all four cases that were brought against him in response to his conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre. He will likely have to pay damages to the families involved.

We liked him better when he contracted cat scratch fever

Onetime rock star Ted Nugent, a prominent pandemic denier who refused to get vaccinated, came down with a bad case of COVID-19. “I have had flu symptoms for the last ten days,” he announced in a video. “I thought I was dying. I mean, just a clusterf—. I got the Chinese s—.” 

“Let me check with my manager about accepting payment in banded stacks of bills with sequential serial numbers”

A Lubbock man was sentenced to twenty years in prison after he was caught driving a car dealership’s BMW loaner to a bank, robbing the bank, and then trying to use the money he had stolen as a down payment on the car. 

She’s apparently immune to common sense

After he used a vial of the Moderna vaccine that was about to expire to immunize several people who were not at an official vaccination site, a Harris County Public Health doctor was fired, and Kim Ogg, the Democratic district attorney, prosecuted him for theft. Once the case was dismissed by a judge, who noted that the DA’s affidavit “is riddled with sloppiness and errors,” Ogg’s office announced that it would present the case to a grand jury—which declined to indict.

Well, there’s a name he can scratch off his gift list

A Houston woman allegedly stole most of her cousin’s $1 million winnings from a Hold ’Em Poker scratch-off lottery ticket, going so far as to forge paperwork from lottery officials in an unsuccessful attempt to convince him that he had won only $20,000 and that after taxes he would receive a mere $13,436 in cash.

Cold . . . Still Cold . . . Getting Warmer . . .

In August, the New York Times ran a web story about New Braunfels with the headline, “How a Remote Town in Texas Became One of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities.” After being mocked for describing a town within shouting distance of Austin and San Antonio as “remote,” the paper changed the headline to “How an Outlying Town in Texas Became One of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities.” After further disparagement, the Times changed it to the relatively inoffensive “How This Texas Town Became One of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities.”

Maybe he liked the ref’s striped uniform and was hoping to get his own

An Edinburg High School football player was charged with misdemeanor assault for making a running blindside tackle on a referee who had just ejected the player for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

“Hi, can I have a Jumbo Jack with extra bad judgment, a side of poor execution, and a large ‘You have the right to remain silent,’ please?” 

A man who allegedly stole an ambulance that had been dispatched to a call in southwest Houston was arrested after he was spotted—with the emergency lights still flashing—in the drive-through of an area Jack in the Box. 

Wait! Oh, yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman!

A Houston postal carrier who had wanted to be assigned to a different route pleaded guilty to falsely claiming that he was robbed at gunpoint while delivering mail. 

Thanks, Ken. That’s definitely an image we will “never forget.”

But that would just make the flames get higher

A Laredo man pleaded guilty to hiding 24 kilos of methamphetamines inside fire extinguishers.

To him, ADT stood for “Another Depraved Texan”

A Dallas employee of the ADT alarm company was sentenced to prison after admitting that he had hacked into more than two hundred security video feeds and, on nearly 10,000 occasions, watched women while they were naked or having sex.

Here’s a word that will remind you to stay on the lookout for the Texas Public Policy Foundation: “anti-intellectual”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, the most prominent conservative think tank in the state, tweeted—and then deleted—a list of “buzzwords” that parents should “stay on the lookout” for if they were worried that their children were being taught critical race theory. The list included terms that are pretty hard to avoid in any discussion of history, e.g., “anti-racism,” “colonialism,” and “power structures.” 

“Dan, could you move a bit to the left? And now just a bit to the right? And maybe a little—okay, that’s perfect.”

Well, he did get to see another kind of badge

A former San Antonio city council member who once successfully pushed for strong restrictions on porn shops and strip clubs—including legislation forcing strippers to wear ID badges—was arrested for allegedly soliciting sex

In an official statement, Mayor McCheese said they were known associates of the Hamburglar

Two customers at a Harris County McDonald’s drive-through allegedly pulled a gun on the restaurant’s manager because they were angry about the amount of salt on their fries.

Luckily for this comedian, he may soon have a captive audience

A Wichita Falls man was charged with theft after he allegedly stole a car, returned it a few hours later, and then told police he meant it as a joke

The customer is always right. Except, apparently, when the customer is actually right.

A bar and grill in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett with an ideologically motivated “No Masks” policy ejected a mask-wearing couple, even after they explained they needed to be cautious for the sake of their four-month-old immunocompromised child.

There’s a strong chance that his defense falls flat

A Houston man who in February pleaded guilty to illegally dumping tires was arrested two months later for once again illegally dumping tires—this time while wearing an ankle monitor required by his previous plea deal.

Now you too can stay abreast of the goings-on at your home with the new Doorbell Spycam 3000!

A woman was caught on video stealing a package from a Houston front porch and having a wardrobe malfunction after she ran so fast her breasts fell out of her top.

Apparently, feeding brisket to the dogs under the table is also a Cornyn family tradition

They must be big fans of the Baylor Office of Behavioral Sciences

Greg Abbott credulously retweeted Elon Musk’s sophomoric claim that he was considering founding the Texas Institute of Technology and Science, which would be known by the acronym TITS.

That’s one way to PAC the Court

After the Texas Supreme Court declined to review a $900,000 judgment against the Houston oil giant Apache, the company gave $250,000 to a PAC that supports the reelection of two of the justices who were hearing the case. The court then agreed to hear the case—it typically grants less than 3 percent of such requests—and ruled in Apache’s favor.

So much for speeding through security

A traveler at Houston Hobby Airport was arrested for allegedly trying to sneak a cache of crystal meth, hidden in a breakfast taco, through a security checkpoint.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, Dan’s lies, and statistics.

Attempting to refute contentions that the state Senate’s move to eliminate drive-through voting would harm communities of color, Dan Patrick falsely claimed that “statistics show that more people of color don’t have cars than [do]. So how do [drive-through voting centers] help those folks?”

Wow, those glasses really change his entire look

“Like, did you ever look at Clifford the Big Red Dog? I mean really look at him? He’s, like, I mean, big, and red, and—hey, do you have any more of those Cracker Jacks?”

An eight-year-old Primera boy was taken to the hospital after eating a cookie that contained marijuana while in his mother’s care.

Also, she wants back the $8.50 she wasted on a screening of Meet Joe Black

The CEO of a health-care staffing company in Plano who claimed she had been scammed out of $40,000 when she was apparently fooled by a  Brad Pitt imitator unsuccessfully sued the real Brad Pitt for $100,000.

That Dutton seem right

In alleged retaliation for an education bill he strongly supported being scuttled, Democratic state representative Harold Dutton revived a bill that would have restricted which teams transgender students could play for—a measure openly despised by his party, and one he’d previously abstained from voting on. (Dutton denies that he revived the bill in retaliation, and it ultimately failed.)