The recording

I have three things to say about this.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, expressed regret Monday and said she is “not perfect” after a recording came out that appeared to show her berating staff with profanity.

Jackson Lee is running for Houston mayor, and the recording was sent from an anonymous email account to multiple news organizations Friday, three days before the start of early voting. She broke her silence on it in a statement Monday night.

“I want to convey to the people of Houston that I strongly believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and that includes my own staff,” Jackson Lee said. “I know that I am not perfect. I recognize that in my zeal to do everything possible to deliver for my constituents I have in the past fallen short of my own standards and there is no excuse for that.”

On the recording, which is about a minute and a half, a voice that sounds like Jackson Lee’s can be heard erupting at a staffer who does not have a document she was looking for. She tells the staffer she wants him to have a “fuckin’ brain” and says “nobody knows a Goddamn thing in my office – nothing.” She refers to another staffer, who is apparently not in the room, as a “fat-ass stupid idiot” and adds both staffers are “fuck-ups.”

“It’s the worst shit that I could have ever had put together,” Jackson Lee says. “Two Goddamn big-ass children, fuckin’ idiots who serve no Goddamn purpose.”

Former staff members did not respond to requests for comment about the recording.

Jackson Lee’s campaign has refused to verify the recording and only referred to it as an “alleged recording” in the title of her statement.

“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 her statement.

1. I haven’t listened to this recording, and I don’t know its provenance. Nor do I know how it found its way to the press, though given the contents it’s hard to imagine it not getting out. (The Whitmire campaign denies any responsibility for it, as noted later in the story.) While Rep. Jackson Lee has not officially confirmed that this is a recording of her, the apology speaks for itself. This recording of words that she said exists. That’s the more important part of the equation.

2. Rep. Jackson Lee has long had a reputation for being a difficult, even abusive, boss. A lot of that is based on older stories, though there was a more recent lawsuit brought by a former staffer who claimed she was wrongfully fired; the suit was later dismissed. Whatever the facts are there, she has been subject to more scrutiny than many others in similar positions because she’s a Black woman. Just look at the comments on any news story involving her, or the replies to any tweet or Facebook post, and take in the seething, vicious hatred. Plenty of other women, especially women of color, go through the same thing. That said, no one in a position of power should ever speak to an employee or other person in a subordinate role like this. It’s gross, it’s abusive, it’s completely unacceptable. It’s also far too common in too many workplaces. If Rep. Jackson Lee really wants to demonstrate her regret, she might consider using some of her power to lift up the workers who are on the receiving end of such abuse.

3. One can be a good member of Congress and also be a bad boss. I’m a longtime constituent of Rep. Jackson Lee, and I’m happy that she represents me in Congress. She votes as I’d like her to, she works hard to stay in touch with the district, she has been a force for political good. A member of Congress is one voice out of many, so a chaotic office won’t have that much effect on the overall function. (Lord knows, there’s plenty of other chaos in Congress right now to take care of that.) I think it would be harder to be a bad boss and also a good Mayor because there’s more immediacy to what a Mayor does, which increases the need to treat one’s staff well. This is another thing that I don’t know how to quantify, but I feel comfortable saying that a Mayor with a strong relationship with their staff is better positioned to succeed than one without. I hope this is another thing Rep. Jackson Lee is thinking about. The Chron has more.

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22 Responses to The recording

  1. manny says:

    Numerous employees have worked for Congresswoman Lee; one of them was interviewed by the person who posts his opinions here. Why not ask him (Ivan Sanchez) what kinda of boss she was? He seems to value the experience he gained while working for her.

    All I see is too many people protecting a white man who was introduced as running for mayor by billionaires and multi-millionaires who are MAGA money donors, introducing him to the world as the person who could bring Republicans and Democrats together.

    That was a staged introduction with the media part of the circus or blindly being led by the people running the circus. The purpose was not to have to do mailers to the MAGA people telling them to support their puppet. They know that they can fool enough Democrats to believe the BS that they are pushing.

    So yes, let us keep pushing the White man. After all, the White race must lead people of color; we too dumb to lead ourselves.

    The polling was also staged. Did the pollers run down all the names of people running for mayor when they asked people who they were voting for?

    I may know who Whitmire is because I follow politics, but the vast majority of voters would have no idea who Whitmire is.

  2. Manny, since you only seem to focus on race and ethnicity, you should already be aware that the current mayor, county judge, county clerk, district clerk, DA, sheriff, most of commissioners court, most local judges, etc. are all women and/or people of color (not White men). Houston and Harris County voters obviously don’t think they need a “White man” to lead them. That said, I hope voters are smart enough to vote for the best person, regardless of gender or race.

  3. John K says:


    love your posts but

    1) Why not take the 90 seconds to listen to the recording? Really it is hard for one to comment on something by relying solely on others. I think once you listen you will realize how totally out of line it was and clearly she speaks to people like this all the time. Not sure how you can have a strong opinion to write a post without listening to the evidence.

    2) “It’s also far too common in too many workplaces”- I have been working for over 30 years in both big and small companies. I have never personally heard anyone be spoken to even remotely close to they way SJL spoke to this staffer (or had any friends tell similar stories). She #1 above after listening to it I think you would agree this is not common in the workplace

    3) IMHO – bad bosses only attract mediocre/average employees. There are too many job options for people out there to work under someone who is a bad boss.

    4) You called her statement an apology but she never uses that word, she just says regretful. But she never says why she is regretful, one can only assume she is regretful it was taped and others had to hear what an awful individual she is.

    5) Please don’t use the black woman excuse that she is treated unfairly. Houston city council currently has 5 black women and I don’t think there is any evidence they are treated unfairly vs their contemporaries. You reap what you sow and SJL treats people horribly and has no respect for anyone but herself. So was the CBCF being racist towards her as well??

  4. Adoile Turner III says:

    What is being missed about SJL here is that she is vastly unliked by a good chunk of even her own district which i grew up in. My entire young adult life my peers and I mostly detested her for lack of action in her poorer areas, but always willing to show up for cameras saying shes working in DC yet our highschool was threatened to be closed almost every year and the area is now only getting better dur to proximity to downtown

  5. C.L. says:

    Adoile, what exactly could SJL have done about the State taking over HISD ? Nada, just like SJL having no authority over a woman’s right (or lack of) to choose what happens with her body…but that’s what she’s championing in her ads.

  6. Manny says:

    It seems like two women of color, a County Judge and a recently elected county commissioner. The County Clerk is Black and Harris County Tax Assessor. Where does the power lie?

    So Greg, if you think the way you do, well you are entitled to that opinion. But there is quite a bit of truth in what I wrote.

    Adoile Turner, you be a Republican, why am I not surprised?

  7. Manny says:

    C.I. Whitmire ads are stalking me all over the internet; the latest one made me laugh; he will increase the # of police, he will make our neighborhoods safer, repair the sidewalks and streets, etc, and LOWER OUR TAXES.

  8. Flypusher says:

    “Houston Matters” had a good discussion of this today. One of the commentators (who teaches at UH) mentioned that among her students, there was more shock over a woman cussing out subordinates than a man doing the same. That’s wrong. SJL bullying people shouldn’t be more shocking than TFG bullying people (especially since the latter can get people hurt). But I agree that it isn’t moving the needle.

    If I lived in Houston I’d roll the dice on Garcia. But I’m just a spectator here.

  9. John, thanks for the feedback. I feel like the reporting about the recording gave me a clear picture of what was said and how it was said. I did say it was gross, abusive, and completely unacceptable. I may listen to it later.

  10. Manny says:

    John J, all but one of those women was elected in a predominately Black voting district.

    So, if she said it once, she always said it? It must be new logic that only certain people use.

    So, if one has not seen it, it must be uncommon, some new logic only available to certain people, I guess. I bet I have seen things you never have.

    Yes, it came from her, which seems to matter more to some people.

  11. David Fagan says:

    L.C. is the ‘Whataboutism’ pointer-outer, so I’m sure he’ll be all over the trump post. The similarities are SLJ recording and the news article linked in Manny’s comment occurred at approximately the same time, but the SJL is only coming out now. Seems like she got a good 5 year pass that she could be grateful for. If she cussed out Sylvester Turner that way, I’d vote for her.

  12. Manny says:

    David the she hear the Whitmire c supporter using vulgarity on the House Floor? That was yesterday.

  13. C.L. says:

    David, right now I have 961 people working for me. At some point you have to separate the wheat from the chaff and call a spade a spade, ergo call them out for not doing their job/what they’re being paid to do. Three groups of people in this arena – business management trying to get the employees to complete their tasks, employees who tire of management telling them what to do, and employees who are doing their job without being harangued by management..

  14. J says:

    Seems to me that what is going on here is that Whitmire is pulling out all the stops to try and get a majority on the first vote, so that is why the recording was dropped now, while SJL is saving most of her effort for the runoff.

  15. Anon says:

    I would have voted for Amanda Edwards to be my Mayor because she is a smart, thoughtful, hard working, listening, problem solving, human being – who seems to be a woman with a beautiful character and the ability to lead others in a mission and JOB. Discussions about race and sex are irrelevant. Sheila Jackson Lee is called out because she is a rude, small minded, less than sharp, petty and demeaning to others (in her own office let alone across the aisle) human being. Her words and actions for many years clearly paint a portrait of who she is and what her “governing” would be like if she helmed our city. My friends living in her district echo the same frustration as the commenters on Kuff. SJL is all flash in front of cameras but content to use a body double at home. Voters who choose to willfully ignore this deserve what they get.

  16. Mainstream says:

    J– I see no scenario where any candidate wins this 17-candidate contest with 50% on the first round. The suggestion that the publicity of this recording is some sort of conspiracy to achieve that 50% is delusional.

    On an unrelated note, I voted today, and neither Whitmire nor Jackson Lee appears on the first page of the mayor’s ballot, which requires two additional clicks to see the full list. Jackson Lee is on the last page. I am wondering if voters will have trouble to find their preferred candidate or if this may cause some confusion.

  17. David Fagan says:

    Ooooooooo, L.C.’s got 961 people working for L.C., L.C. must be important!

    If SJL would slap the poop out of Turner, with video so I could watch over and over, I’d help her on her campaign.

  18. David Fagan says:

    Lee Brown endorsed her, RIGHT?!?!

  19. C.L. says:

    Fear not, David – I’m in no danger of having you as an employee and trust me, you’re in no danger of having me as a Boss.

  20. David fagan says:

    L.C., I’m done having bosses.

  21. Manny says:

    Amazing, how many people would rather have someone who says hire me a lobbyist, and I will push your agenda.

  22. Andrew Lynch says:

    SJL does not have the ability to lead a group of staffers as the Mayor of Houston. There are better candidates on the ballot

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