The speaker of the House in the state of Texas had difficulty performing his ceremonial duties during a recent legislative session, sparking questions about possible public intoxication or perhaps even a serious medical episode.
On Friday evening, Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican representing portions of Jasper, Jefferson, and Orange Counties, took to the dais at the state House in Austin to conduct his usual responsibilities: maintaining order, recognizing colleagues who wish to speak, and banging a gavel at appropriate moments. However, Phelan appeared to be out of sorts that night, repeating himself, slurring his words, and even misidentifying a female representative as a male colleague. A clip of the meeting quickly went viral on social media:
Mediaite attempted to transcribe the video with the help of an online tool, and the resulting transcription is just as confusing as the video. It also does not convey the uncomfortably long pause between when the gavel sounded and when Phelan attempted to identify Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, a Democrat from Mesquite:
PHELAN: Mr. Kuempel, the Senate amendat — the amendment is [inaudible] is the objection to the opposite amendment, and the [inaudible] amendat — amendment is adopted. (Bangs gavel) The chair recognizes Mr. — Mr. Johnson of Harris? Mr. Johnson of Harris to speak in opposition to…the bill.
UNKNOWN: It’s Ms. Neave Criado.
PHELAN: The chair recognizes Ms. Neave Criado to speak in opposition to the bill.
As of Monday afternoon, the video had already garnered 1.5 million views on Twitter, with many users drawing their own conclusions about why a seemingly healthy 47-year-old man would have such difficulty speaking coherently.
“Ummmmm… Could You Repeat That For The Sober People In The Back,” wrote one user. “Yikes Dude.”
“Nancy was like that,” joked another, referencing former U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Must be a Speaker thing.”
However, one of Phelan’s former Republican colleagues in the state House, Jonathan Strickland, issued a much more scathing rebuke in response to the video. “Anyone who watches the #txlege House knows many of the members are regularly intoxicated,” tweeted Strickland, who now identifies as a “recovering politician.” “Watching the Speaker be this wasted is absolutely unacceptable. These Representatives are making laws that impact 30 million Texans. It must stop.”
Though most blamed Phelan’s behavior on alcohol or some other kind of intoxicant, still others expressed concern that a medical issue, perhaps even a stroke, was the cause. “That looks neurological to me, not drunk,” insisted a user who goes by the name Happy Sandwich.
“Yes, you can have a stroke and not really even know it,” Happy Sandwich commented elsewhere.
Phelan’s Capitol office did not respond to TheBlaze’s request for comment. His district office denied knowledge of the video and directed all questions to his Capitol office.
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