Texas Republicans spoke out against the Defend Texas Liberty PAC after its president, former Republican Texas Rep. Jonathan Stickland, hosted Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes at far-right consulting firm Pale Horse Strategies outside of Fort Worth Friday.
Almost all North Texas Republicans signed on to a letter condemning Fuentes and calling on fellow lawmakers to donate money from Stickland’s political action committee to other causes. The House GOP letter, signed by 76 caucus members, sided with Phelan’s call for elected officials to publicly disavow their connection with Defend Texas Liberty.
“Anything less is a disservice to our oath and the people we represent,” caucus members wrote.
The members said the group holds unwavering support for Israel and called the meeting “profoundly disturbing.”
Phelan praised the letter’s signatories Wednesday on X, formerly known as Twitter. Among those Phelan publicly thanked was state Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano.
But while most North Texas representatives in the caucus signed on to the letter, three were among the 23 Republicans who did not.
State representatives Nate Schatzline, R-Fort Worth; Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington; and Richard Hayes, R-Denton, all declined to do so, highlighting a growing rift among Texas Republicans as lawmakers returned to Austin for a special legislative session to tackle school vouchers and border legislation.
In a statement, Schatzline wrote the GOP caucus letter was an attack on a conservative political organization that has consistently opposed the House speaker. Schatzline and other Phelan critics also objected to his invoking the deadly Hamas attack on Israel over the weekend, during which thousands of Israelis and Palestinians were killed or injured.
“I am disappointed that the atrocities that are taking place in Israel are being used to fuel inner-party conflict and I will have no part in it,” he said.
Schatzline’s statement did not condemn Fuentes.
Tinderholt said the GOP letter was an attempt to deflect from Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial and also called for Phelan’s immediate resignation.
“The Speaker is focused on weaponizing the House Republican Caucus by exploiting the tragic violence in Israel to accomplish his political ends,” Tinderholt wrote in a statement.
“I will never tolerate racism or antisemitism by anyone including Mr. Fuentes,” he added.
Hayes did not respond to requests for comment.
Calls for Phelan to resign, supported by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, grew louder after Paxton’s acquittal in mid-September. In response to Phelan’s public criticism, Stickland and Defend Texas Liberty repeated their demand that the speaker step down. Stickland’s PAC also attempted to distance itself from Fuentes in a two-sentence statement posted to X.
Patrick has accused Phelan of using the weekend bombing for a political stunt, and in a Wednesday press release, called the speaker’s criticism of Defend Texas Liberty “an orchestrated smear campaign.”
He also confirmed he would keep the $3 million in donations he received from the PAC.
“When we accepted the contribution from Defend Texas Liberty PAC, there was no hint of any links to any antisemitic organizations or other hate groups,” Patrick said. “Like all contributions we receive, they are accepted on good faith. I see no reason to return the PAC’s contribution.”
Source : Kera News