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Texas Governor Says 'Mistakes Were Made' In Fundraising Letter Before El Paso Shooting

Jesus Rosales for The Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott met with El Paso-area state legislators Aug. 7, four days after a mass murderer killed 22 people at a Walmart.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that “mistakes were made” in his fundraising letter that used alarmist language in calling to “DEFEND” the Texas border and was dated one day before a deadly shooting that targeted Hispanics in El Paso.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the second meeting of the newly formed Texas Safety Commission, Abbott said he talked to members of the El Paso legislative delegation about the mailer and “emphasized the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way.”

“I did get the chance to visit with the El Paso delegation and help them understand that mistakes were made and course correction has been made,” he said. “We will make sure that we work collaboratively in unification. I had the opportunity to visit with [the El Paso delegation] for about an hour to fully discuss the issue.”

In his short remarks, Abbott didn’t address the specific language of the letter, what mistakes were made or what course correction has been made on his end. His apology comes nearly a week after The Texas Tribune first reported on the letter, which cautioned of supposed political implications that could come with unchecked illegal immigration.

“The national Democrat machine has made no secret of the fact that it hopes to ‘turn Texas blue.’ If they can do it in California, they can do it in Texas — if we let them,” Abbott wrote in the fundraising appeal.

The governor signed off with another pointed warning: “Unless you and I want liberals to succeed in their plan to transform Texas — and our entire country — through illegal immigration, this is a message we MUST send.”

Members of the El Paso legislative delegation were not immediately available for comment on Abbott’s remarks about the letter, but before Thursday’s meeting, a handful told the Tribune that they were ready to leave any ill will in the past, put politics aside, and focus on healing and rebuilding their community.

“I think our community is healing, and I think those kinds of comments are hurtful and our delegation acknowledged that publicly,” said state Rep. César Blanco, a Democrat whose district encompasses the Walmart where the shooting took place. “We need to move forward and make sure we do the business of the state. … That’s paramount, and that’s what we’ll be focused on.”

The Texas Democratic Party, meanwhile, demanded the governor apologize for his “racist fundraising mailer” and “answer questions about ending his racist rhetoric immediately.”

“The first step in solving a problem is admitting we have one. In that respect, this Texas Safety Commission meeting is a step in the right direction,” Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement. “However, let’s be clear: Governor Abbott and the Republican Party’s white supremacist rhetoric, like that seen in Abbott’s fundraising mailer the day before the El Paso shooting, continues to be a major part of the problem.”

Twenty-two people were killed and more than two dozen were wounded in the El Paso shooting. The gunman, whom Abbott previously called an “enraged killer,” was arrested and charged with capital murder.

In a manifesto published just before the shooting, the man railed against a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and told authorities he was targeting “Mexicans” when he surrendered. After the discovery of the manifesto, federal authorities began investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

Before asking reporters to leave the room where the commission was slated to meet, Abbott decried what happened in El Paso as “racist hate.”

“The killer in El Paso definitely was a racist, and he was intent on acting out on his racism,” he said. “If you look at his manifesto, you will see time and again his target was Texas — the Texas culture, the Hispanic community and blended communities.

“Some of the victims of this horrific crimes are blended communities. My family is blended communities. My wife is the first Hispanic first lady in Texas. Her family came from Mexico. We need to address this attack on who we are as Texans.”

Disclosure: Walmart has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Alex Samuels is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Austin. She came to the Tribune in fall 2016 as a newsletters fellow, writing the daily Brief and contributing to the water, education and health newsletters. Alex previously worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.