Audio of Rep. Jackson Lee allegedly insulting staff goes viral, campaign blames political rivals

The 95-second clip comes as the Democratic Texas congresswoman leads in Houston's open mayoral race. Jackson Lee says her opponent is trying to sabotage her.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is stirring up political controversy after Republican social media sites circulated an unverified recording of the Texas Democrat unleashing a string of profanity-laced insults at a staff member.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the 95-second recording comes as Jackson Lee, often viewed as demanding and sharp-talking, is a front-runner in Houston’s open mayoral race – and she accuses her opponent and fellow Democrat, state Sen. John Whitmire, of trying to sabotage her.

“This is a low-handed political tactic meant to discredit a thriving mayoral campaign and distract voters ahead of the early voting period,” Jackson Lee’s campaign shared in its statement. “It’s unsurprising that these attacks have originated from extremely conservative blogs and political operatives backing John Whitmire.” 

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, is facing backlash after she allegedly lashed out at her team members in a now-viral audio clip. Above, the congresswoman speaks at a 2022 Washington press conference calling for the expansion of the Supreme Court. (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Take Back the Court Action Fund)

In the clip, a woman criticizes a man who sounds like an employee after he explains that a different congressional team member had the information she demanded about a designated task.

“I want you to have read it. I want you to say, ‘Congresswoman, it was such and such date.’ That’s what I want,” the woman said, the Chronicle reported.

She proceeds to refer to him and another staffer as “f—ed-ups and f—ing assholes” and “two goddamn big-ass children, f—ing idiots” who “serve no goddamn purpose.”

“You ain’t doing sh–,” the woman adds, “and this is an example of it.” She also refers to a person’s weight.

The individual who released the recording did so under an apparent alias, sending it to the Houston Chronicle and other media before spreading it online Friday morning.

It’s the first time any recorded audio or video evidence of her berating anyone has ever surfaced. The Chronicle reported it has been asking Jackson Lee’s campaign staff since Friday if the voice on the recording is hers, a question her team declined to answer in her subsequent statement.  

Throughout the last three decades, opponents have regularly chastised Jackson Lee and her senior aides for excessive workloads and high turnover rates. According to the Chronicle, congressional staffers frequently voted Jackson Lee as the “meanest” employer on Capitol Hill in Washingtonian magazine’s list of “Best and Worst of Congress.”

LegiStorm, a web platform that tracks congressional staff, ranks Jackson Lee first among Texas House members regarding historical staff turnover. Her turnover rate has climbed significantly in recent years, ranking fourth among all House members in 2021 and 2022.

The campaign for Whitmire, the other front-runner in the contest for Houston mayor, denied any involvement in the recording’s distribution. 

“We don’t know any of the people who put this out on Twitter,” Whitmore’s spokesperson Sue Davis said, the Chronicle reported. “We know nothing about it other than what everybody else does. And to try to accuse our camp of leaking it is just trying to take attention away from what is in the recording.”

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