The chair of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)’s Houston mayoral campaign was hospitalized after being attacked on Monday morning, according to a spokesperson for the congresswoman.
The alleged assault comes just days after purported audio of Jackson Lee berating a staffer with such colorful phrases as “fuckface,” “shitass,” and “Boo Boo” went viral after being circulated by right-wing social media accounts.
Gerald Womack, a longtime friend of Jackson Lee’s, was hit in the head at his real estate business’ office, which also serves as a satellite office for the congresswoman, spokesperson Angelica Luna Kaufman told The Daily Beast.
She said that Womack had been bleeding when he was whisked away in an ambulance, and that the campaign was waiting for an update on Womack’s condition. Jackson Lee’s team believes the suspected assailant to be a local blogger with a history of pushing conspiracy theories about election fraud.
“We don’t know what was behind it,” Luna Kaufman said. “We’re trying to figure that out… It’s the first day of early voting. We don’t know if he thought the congresswoman was here.”
The Daily Beast is not naming the man as no charges were immediately filed in the case. The Houston Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but told KPRC 2, which first reported the assault, that Womack and his alleged attacker knew each other.
A department spokesperson elaborated later to the Houston Chronicle, which reported that officers had responded to the office site just before 11 a.m. on Monday. Speaking to police, Womack identified his assailant as a man who had been harassing him for several months, according to the spokesperson.
The man hit Womack in the face with a closed fist after being asked to leave the office, Womack told investigators, causing him to briefly lose consciousness. When he came to, a “scuffle ensued” between the pair, according to the Chronicle. The man fled the building soon after.
A police investigation remained ongoing Monday evening, with the department expected to obtain an additional statement from the other man in order to determine next steps.
It was not immediately clear if the incident was connected to the undated, unverified audio recording, which quickly gained traction online after being published on Saturday by Current Revolt, a conservative newsletter with 23,000 subscribers. After its publication, the Chronicle reported that it and several other local media outlets had received copies of the audio the previous day, but that the anonymous sender had not responded to follow-up questions.
The 95-second tape features a woman unloading on an employee after he attempts to explain that he brought the document she is looking for upstairs to someone named “Jerome.” (It is unclear when the audio was captured; the woman makes reference to Ovide Duncantell, a Texas civil rights leader who died in 2018.)
Leaked audio obtained by @CurrentRevolt shows Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee berating a staffer: "F**king idiots serve no goddamn purpose ... Nobody gives a shit about what you're doing and you ain't doing shit!"
(WARNING: Explicit language) pic.twitter.com/Lzl4AmKhkS
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 21, 2023
“I don’t want you to do a goddamn thing. I want you to have a fucking 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,” the woman snaps. “That’s the kind of staff that I want to have. So some stupid other motherfucker did it, and I don’t have the information. Nobody sent me the information. I need to ensure my schedule and, you know—if Boo Boo did it, Shitass did it, Fuckface did it. And nobody knows a goddamn thing in my office. OK? Nothing.”
“I gave it to you,” she continues. “Your job was to get it on the calendar, imprint it in your brain, or send me the information back saying, ‘Congresswoman, I made sure that the Ovide Duncantell event that you gave me for so-and-so date at 7:00 is on the fucking calendar.’ Not to—‘Oh, Jerome has it,’ OK? So when I call Jerome, he’s going to be sitting up there like a fatass stupid idiot talking about, ‘Uh, what the fuck?’ He doesn’t know. OK? Both of y’all are fuckups, are fucking [inaudible]. It’s the worst shit that I could have ever had put together. Two goddamn bigass children. Fucking idiots, serve no goddamn purpose.”
Jackson Lee’s campaign responded to the tape in a statement issued on Saturday night. It did not confirm that the voice in the audio was Jackson Lee’s, but charged her political opponents with attempting to smear her with its release.
“This is a low-handed political tactic meant to discredit a thriving mayoral campaign and distract voters ahead of the early voting period,” the campaign said. “It’s unsurprising that these attacks have originated from extremely conservative blogs and political operatives backing [mayoral candidate and Democratic Texas Sen.] John Whitmire.”
A spokesperson for Whitmire roundly rejected the idea that his campaign was linked to the release. “We don’t know any of the people who put this out on Twitter,” the spokesperson told the Chronicle. “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.”
Luna Kaufman told The Daily Beast on Monday afternoon that Jackson Lee’s team was still working to verify the audio. “We know it sounds like her,” she acknowledged, but its anonymous sourcing and apparent age “really questions the credibility.”
Jackson Lee, who alongside Whitmire is considered a front-runner in the mayoral race, according to the Chronicle, announced her campaign in March. A veteran of Texas politics, she has represented the state’s 18th district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995.
Houston’s mayoral election day is Nov. 7.