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Central Texas Congressman Faces Calls Of Resignation After Apparent Pro-Lynching Comment

Chip Roy
Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
Chip Roy

Republican Congressman Chip Roy drew strong criticism from his Democratic colleagues and AAPI advocates this week after he made what appeared to be a pro-lynching remark. His comment came Thursday during a U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on combating anti-Asian American violence.

U.S. representatives called the hearing to address the acceleration of violence against Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic engulfed American life. The hearing was initially scheduled before a 21-year-old white man shot and killed eight people in Atlanta on March 16, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

Roy denounced the Atlanta attack and said victims of race-based violence deserve justice, when he then referenced lynching.

“We believe in justice,” Roy said. “There’s an old saying in Texas about, you know, ‘find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree.’ You know we take justice very seriously and we ought to do that, round up the bad guys,” he added.

The “old saying,” as theDallas Morning Newspointed out, is actually a lyric in the 2003 Toby Keith and Willie Nelson song “Beer for My Horses.”

Roy questioned the motive behind Thursday’s hearing and expressed concerns it was focused on policing free speech and not taking out “bad guys,” who he defined as the Chinese Communist Party.

Roy spent much of his opening remarks pointing blame at the East Asian country’s governing political party over the handling of the pandemic and cited several controversial policies under the Chinese government, including its treatment of the Uyghur ethnic group and the theft of American intellectual property.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) has led efforts to combat discrimination against Asian Americans during the pandemic. She blasted Roy’s comments and argued GOP members who spread rhetoric related to the coronavirus, such as "Kung Flu" or "Wuhan virus," have stoked racism toward Asian communities.

“Your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want,” Meng said. “But you don't have to do it by putting a bullseye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids."

California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, who sits on the Judiciary Committee with Roy, called the Texas Republican’s remark “stupid” and “racist” and connected the comments to the 1871 lynching against Chinese immigrants.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also took to Twitter to decry Roy’s comments. She said they represented the “myopic inability of Republicans to step up and confront the racial hatred/violence targeting Asian Americans right now.”

Texas Democrats called for Roy’s resignation in a statement Thursday, but Roy told NBC News later that night he had “no apologies” for his comments.

Roy represents the 21st District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes a portion of northern Bexar County and extends to a large swath of the Hill Country and Austin.

Roy's comments also came as San Antonio, a part of his district, confronted anti-Asian discrimination.

The Bexar County district attorney and the San Antonio police chief pledged on Thursday to prosecute the recent vandalism of the Noodle Tree restaurant. Its owner, Mike Nguyen, appeared on CNN last week and criticized Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to lift the mask mandate. On Sunday, the restaurant was vandalized with anti-Asian sentiments.

Christina Lew, president of the San Antonio Lodge of the Chinese-American Citizens Alliance, also pledged to form an advocacy group to encourage the community to report hate crimes and to support people impacted by discrimination. "If you witness an act of hate, please speak out," she said. "Please be an ally and give us a voice."

Also, activists planned to hold a vigil in San Antonio's Main Plaza on Saturday, March 20, to condemn "anti-Asian hate crimes & racism."

A statement released on Friday said that the 6 p.m. event at 115 North Main Avenue called for participants to "come together in peace to demand an end to violence."

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Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren