House Speaker Dennis Bonnen attacked Texas Gun Rights director Chris McNutt at a Republican Party of Texas spring dinner in Austin last night, according to multiple witnesses.
As if killing Constitutional Carry and Texas’s strong pro-life bills this session were not enough, Speaker Bonnen decided to take advantage of the Republican Party of Texas’s spring dinner, where McNutt was also in attendance, to threaten the gun rights activist. Bonnen even delivered a few choice insults to Texas’s Republicans more broadly, according to multiple witnesses.
Big League Politics spoke with multiple witnesses who attended the Republican Party of Texas event who confirmed on the record Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s menacing behavior.
Similarly, all witnesses we contacted confirmed Chris McNutt kept his calm and remained poised as he was verbally attacked by House Speaker Bonnen.
Big League Politics has chosen to publish the accounts of each of these witnesses as a part of this report. The attendees who witnessed Bonnen’s attack on McNutt include former Texas House Rep. Matt Rinaldi, long-time Republican activist David Wylie, major donor Darlene Pendery, and TX Legislative Watch’s Mike Openshaw, who famously wears the “Not a Lobbyist t-shirt.”
The net effect of Bonnen’s effort to freeze out conservative speech is that many Texas Republicans may be hesitant to speak out against Speaker Bonnen’s liberal agenda. As we’ve seen with the very public selling out of Republican grassroots by former conservative champion Jonathan Stickland, Bonnen’s behind-the-scenes bullying seems to be working.
Indeed, the rift between Texas’ Republican elites like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Abbott has grown so obvious the liberal Texas Tribune took note in a recent article entitled “Republicans have been turned French: Hardline Texas conservatives worry their allies have gone soft.”
“Activist conservative groups have long been aligned with the lawmakers they helped elect, like Texas House Freedom Caucus members and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Are they still on the same page?” the Tribune asks.
The Tribune then goes on to detail the extent to which Patrick and Abbott have totally cowed the Texas House Freedom Caucus by forcing total compliance with a recently passed bloated budget bill.
BONNEN ATTACKS McNUTT
Tuesday night in downtown Austin at the J.W. Marriott, multiple conservative activists were seated at the front of the room at the RPT spring dinner, when, according to multiple sources, House Speaker stormed to the front of the room just before dinner. “It was as if he were on a mission,” one source said.
Speaker Bonnen then grabbed Texas Gun Rights director Chris McNutt, according to Mr. Rinaldi and Wylie. Bonnen then proceeded to accost McNutt about some blockwalking McNutt had recently completed in his district.
Bonnen continued to accost McNutt for some time, and refused to quit, despite being asked to leave by a staffer. Bonnen even accused the TXGR director of threatening him, one source said. David Wylie confirmed this account, but differed slightly, saying Bonnen went so far as to accuse McNutt of assault.
All witnesses relayed a scenario in which McNutt remained calm throughout Bonnen’s attack, and that he even tried to engage with the Speaker in civil discussion. All sources indicated that Speaker Bonnen refused to have a polite discussion. McNutt attempted to let Bonnen know that he was engaged in constitutionally protected speech, reportedly saying, “I was just walking neighborhoods, getting public support for a cause.”
Dennis Bonnen then rejected McNutt’s claim to be able to engage in political speech protected by the first amendment, yelling angrily at McNutt, “You can’t do that!” McNutt disagreed with Bonnen, and asserted that he is allowed to canvass neighborhoods.
David Wylie told Big League Politics that he was concerned for his safety and the safety of others as a result of Speaker Bonnen’s rage-filled episode, and so he stood up and began to try to diffuse Bonnen’s anger-driven rant.
“I stood up and stood between McNutt and the Speaker and told him, ‘We’re just going to have a nice event tonight, have a nice dinner.”
“I’ll never eat with you people,” Wylie says Bonnen replied.
Wylie replied, “If you’re not going to eat and have a nice evening, you need to leave,” and he pointed to the rear of the room, to which Bonnen responded, “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Wylie retorted, “Actually, you work for me.” Speaker Bonnen replied: “No I don’t [work for you].”
Wylie told BLP as soon as he pointed to the rear of the room and told Bonnen he needed to leave, the Speaker’s people came and corralled him and said they needed to leave, which they did.
McNUTT STAYS CALM IN THE FACE OF BONNEN’S RAGE
TXGR’s McNutt confirmed Bonnen’s house was on his block walk list, and he did speak with two DPS troopers who were parked near Bonnen’s home and chatting when he arrived. He did not dispute that he walked past Bonnen’s home, but he never approached the Speaker’s home, and didn’t speak with anyone, according to multiple sources.
Former State Representative Matt Rinaldi also came to McNutt’s defense, saying “Chris McNutt is one of the most reserved, respectful, and gentlemanly people I know. By all accounts, he didn’t threaten anyone or attempt to intimidate them. The facts show all he did was canvass a neighborhood with literature backing gun rights. He didn’t even knock on the Speaker’s door, and merely left a flyer with DPS.”
The conservative Rinaldi sees this incident as a dangerous first step toward potential free speech violations. “The fact that the third most powerful person in the state is targeting a citizen merely because he block walked a neighborhood and handed out fliers is disturbing to say the least. This will certainly have the effect of chilling political speech, which may be exactly what the Speaker intended,” Rinaldi warned.
Similarly, reports from Republican activist Darlene Pendery indicate that Bonnen verbally assaulted McNutt, while the gun rights activist maintained decorum throughout the encounter.
One conservative Republican activist, also a guest of Ms. Pendery, but who wished to remain anonymous because of fear of backlash by Speaker Bonnen’s office, witnessed the confrontation, and was standing within arm’s reach of Bonnen and McNutt.
He confirmed Pendery’s observations saying that Bonnen was “storming through the tables as if he were on a mission” and confronted McNutt, telling him “don’t you dare come around my damn house again.”
Bonnen then stormed off in disgust, despite being slated as one of the speakers at this Republican Party event, according to the conservative activist.
Over the past week, Bonnen has thrown a fit over McNutt’s otherwise peaceful activist. On The Chad Hasty Show, the House Speaker went as far as to accuse McNutt of brandishing a gun in Dustin Burrows’ district despite offering no evidence backing this claim up.
Conservative activists have chimed on this recent drama.
“Dennis Bonnen is well known to occasionally have some anger management issues,” said Mike Openshaw, a longtime conservative activist and manager of Texas Legislative Watch. He further commented on both Bonnen’s and McNutt’s temperaments saying, “All my dealings with Chris McNutt have been honest and positive, and he’s always had a calm, respectful demeanor. I cannot say that about Dennis Bonnen.”
Texas Republican and the Murder of Constitutional Carry in Austin
The 2019 session of the Texas State Legislature is quickly coming to a close and now Constitutional Carry has met an early funeral.
BLP previously highlighted how certain gun rights activists have been disappointed with the Austin political class’s refusal to listen to grassroots demands for Constitutional Carry.
Justin Delosh and Derek Wills of Lone Star Gun Rights pointed out how Constitutional Carry is the #1 legislative priority of the Texas GOP.
Although talks about Texas going blue are premature, some activists do worry that Texas political leadership will eventually kowtow to gun control pressure just like a Republican-controlled legislature in Florida did in 2018.
However, Texas Gun Rights is not going anywhere.
BLP covered how the no compromise gun lobby plans on doubling down on the Texas political establishment for failing to bring Constitutional Carry up for a vote.
This was no isolated incident.
As BLP reported, Bonnen has had it out for McNutt over the past few weeks due to McNutt’s recent block walking campaign in Bonnen and his political cronies’ districts.
Despite the peaceful nature of McNutt’s outreach efforts, Bonnen accused him of being an “overzealous advocate for criminals to get a gun.”
In no time, legacy media outlets like the Dallas Morning News and The Houston Chronicle piled on in a concerted effort to discredit McNutt.
The coordinated Fake News campaign along with Bonnen’s pressure was enough to make Constitutional Carry sponsor Jonathan Stickland fold and withdraw his bill.
Bonnen’s effort to chill activists is not likely to be well received among the Republican base, and some activists are already discussing recruiting a challenger to replace Bonnen in his House district.
The following are the full unedited accounts of David Wylie and Mike Openshaw.
DAVID WYLIE’S ACCOUNT OF BONNEN’S ATTACK ON McNUTT
We were sitting at a table in the front of the room, having been invited by a major GOP donor, Darlene Pendery, (they’ve donated a million dollars over the last years to a number of campaigns.)
Bonnen came in and leaned over me, grabbed McNutt by the shoulders and began shaking him.
BONNEN: “Don’t ever go to my house again. If you want to talk to me, you come to my office. you schedule an appointment, and you come talk to me.”
McNutt didn’t know what to say while Bonnen just continued to rail on McNutt. Bonnen accused Chris of threatening him. McNutt explained that he wasn’t blockwalking.
Bonnen even accused McNutt of assault. McNutt said “I was just walking neighborhoods, getting public support for a cause.”
Bonnen said, “You can’t do that.” McNutt disagreed with Bonnen and said he could.
Wylie: “I stood up and stood between McNutt and the Speaker. “We’re just going to have a nice event tonight. have a nice dinner.”
Bonnen said, “I’ll never eat with you people.”
Wylie replied, “If you’re not going to eat and have a nice evening, you need to leave.”
Bonnen further said, “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Wylie said, “Actually you work for me.
Bonnen replied: “No I don’t.”
Wylie: “As soon as I pointed to the rear of the room and told him he needed to leave, his people came and corralled him and said they needed to leave.”
Wylie: “I was concerned for our safety.“
MIKE OPENSHAW’S ACCOUNT OF BONNEN’S ATTACK ON McNUTT
Dennis Bonnen is well known to occasionally have some anger management issues.
Bonnen is just attacking Chris McNutt and TXGR as a public diversion from the fact that he’s already killed 257 Con Carry bill in the background. By now it’s clear Bonnen is an adversary to the Constitutional Carry movement, which he seemed to be even before this incident, but now it’s obvious.
TXGR did a literature drop in Bonnen’s district, and that’s what set him off. I entirely believe McNutt’s version of events is accurate. Bonnen’s just not used to being challenged locally.
The news reporting on this has been unprofessional and advocacy-driven. The media had not spoken with Chris before they wrote their first stories, they only spoke with Bonnen, and only got one side of the story.
The press implied that Bonnen’s house was targeted specifically, when actually there were several towns in Bonnen’s district that were lit dropped. They also implied he was armed, which was false.
All my dealings with Chris McNutt have been honest and positive, and he’s always had a calm, respectful demeanor. I cannot say that about Dennis Bonnen.
My first interaction with Bonnen was contentious for twenty minutes when i testified before his ways and means committee. His attitude was just one of “I’m going to get it my way.” And frankly, he didn’t get it his way, and that’s what made him mad.
Everyone I spoke with who was at the table said Chris’s response was very gentleman-like and they said he did not respond to Bonnen in kind, and he remained very level headed.
Bonnen is overplaying this issue. He’s a big, powerful guy who seems to be complaining excessively about this. He should be able to handle a little bit of literature being dropped in his neighborhood.
It’s worth noting that Bonnen has also been working to kill pro-life bills since 2018 when he named biggest pro-abortion democrat to head the public health committee, senfronia thompson. This woman waved a wire coat hanger on the floor in the debate over the 2013 bill. Public Health is where all the pro-life bills like the Heartbeat end up being referred. So those were set up to fail from the beginning.
DARLENE PENDERY’S GUEST’S ACCOUNT OF BONNEN’S ATTACK ON McNUTT
We were at the center table right in front of the stage in the front of the room.
I was sitting there speaking with Matt Rinaldi. Bonnen “storm[ed] through the tables as if he were on a mission”. this person was less than arm’s length from the whole scenario:
Bonnen walked directly up to mcnutt as if he were on a mission, then Bonnen gets right in front of McNutt, slams hand down on table and says, “Don’t you dare come around my damn house again.” McNutt tried to shake hands & reintroduce himself, and Bonnen’s chief of Staffer”shea?” tried to extricate Bonnen, saying “We need to go,” when Bonnen refused, saying, “Hold on! I’m gonna stay right here hold on!” then Bonnen continued to try to harangue McNutt.
David Wylie stood up and said “If you’re gonna get tough with him, you need to get tough with me too.” Then Bonnen smirked, and turned on heel and stormed out of the event.
Bonnen has done this before with guys like Jonathan Stickland, when he once grabbed him by the lapel and yelled at him.
The net effect is Bonnen is an iron fisted dictator.
Folks in Austin think Bonnen’s untouchable because he has the backing of Governor Abbott, so Republicans in the capital won’t challenge him.
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