HOUSTON (AP) — U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who is running to be Houston’s next mayor, expressed regret and said that “everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect” following the release of an unverified audio recording purported to be of the longtime Democratic lawmaker berating staff members with a barrage of expletives.
In the recording, which was sent anonymously to multiple news organizations on Friday, a woman who sounds like Jackson Lee can be heard criticizing a male staff member after he tells her that some information she was seeking was with another staffer. It is unclear when the recording was made.
“I want you to have a (expletive) brain. I want you to have read it. I want you to say, ’Congresswoman, it was such and such date. That’s what I want. That’s the kind of staff that I want to have,” the woman can be heard saying.
In the rest of the 95-second recording, the woman berates the staffer she is talking to and another staff member, whom she described as a “fat ass stupid idiot.”
“Two goddamn big ass children, (expletive) idiots who serve no goddamn purpose. Ain’t managing nobody, nobody’s respecting them, nobody gives a (expletive) about what you’re doing and you ain’t doing (expletive) and this is an example of it,” the woman said.
In a statement released Monday evening, Jackson Lee did not directly admit that the woman in the recording is her but said she wanted to express 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.”
“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,” said Jackson Lee, who has been in Congress since 1995.
She said many of her staff members have “gone on to bigger and better opportunities and others as well have returned to work with me again.”
She blamed the release of the recording, which was sent out days before the start of early voting on Monday in the Nov. 7 election, on her main rival in the mayoral race, state Sen. John Whitmire.
“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,” Jackson Lee said.
Sue Davis, a spokesperson for Whitmire, said the state senator’s campaign had nothing to do with the recording.
“It’s the mark of a desperate, losing campaign to make this weak attempt to try to change the narrative from what is on the recording,” Davis said.
Jackson Lee is one of 18 candidates vying to lead the nation’s fourth-largest city.
They are seeking to replace Mayor Sylvester Turner, who has served eight years and can’t run again because of term limits.
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Juan A. Lozano, The Associated Press