Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Top Oil and Gas Regulator Retweets Noose Image

Courtesy Barry Smitherman for Texas Facebook page

Barry Smitherman, the head of Texas' oil and gas agency, took to social media today to criticize Republican senators advocating for debate on expanded background checks for gun ownership with the word "treason" and a picture of a noose.

Update: 24 hours after his tweet, Smitherman apologized on Twitter, saying “I chose the wrong message to [re-tweet]. A regretful mistake. I apologize.”

Original story: Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman weighed in on the gun-control developments in Washington on Thursday, re-tweeting an image that showed a noose beside the names of Republican U.S. Senators who had voted down a filibuster.

On Twitter, Smitherman re-posted an image and message from a user with the handle @PsychScriv, who had posted: “Make sure none of these people have seats in 2014.” The accompanying image showed a list of the 16 Republican senators whose vote had broken the filibuster that would have kept the gun-control bill off the U.S. Senate floor. A noose dangled beside the names, topped by a single word: “Treason.”

Smitherman added his own commentary, tweeting: “We are in trouble when these Rs side w/ Sen Reid.” The list included Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the Republican party’s 2008 presidential nominee.

The liberal group Progress Texas decried Smitherman’s post and called for an apology.

“Barry Smitherman’s reprehensible action is disturbing, disgusting and has absolutely no place in our political discourse,” Matt Glazer, the group’s executive director, wrote in a statement. “To suggest that any American, let alone a U.S. senator, deserves to be hung for a democratically cast vote is absolutely unacceptable.”

A call to Smitherman’s cell phone on Thursday night was not immediately returned. He posted several subsequent messages, including two retweets of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on the gun issue.

Smitherman, who leads the board that regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, was appointed to the Railroad Commission by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 and won election to the office last November. He has made headlines in recent months by launching a course for Railroad Commission employees with concealed handgun licenses. He also recently launched a glossy new website, barryfortexas.com.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/04/11/texas-top-oil-and-gas-regulator-retweets-noose-ima/.


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