AUSTIN (KXAN) — Democratic candidate for Texas governor, Beto O’Rourke, dropped an ‘F-Bomb’ this week during a passionate rebuttal of a protester at one of his campaign events.
“Now, 11 weeks since we lost 19 kids and their two teachers, shot to death with a weapon originally designed for use in combat,” O’Rourke said. “Legally purchased by an 18 year old who did try to obtain one when he was 16 or 17, but followed the law that’s on the books, ladies and gentlemen.”
At one point during his intense speech about the mass killing in Uvalde, along with his stance on gun control, a protester — who the O’Rourke campaign identified as a protester in support of opponent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — laughed loudly.
“This individual is not in any way affiliated with [Abbott’s] campaign,” said Abbott’s Campaign Communication Director Mark Miner.
Regardless of who it was, O’Rourke whipped around, pointed at that man and said, “It may be funny to you motherf—-r, but it’s not funny to me, OK?” The crowd erupted in applause.
“When we think about the fall election, it’s all about turnout,” Brian Smith, a professor of political science at St. Edwards University, said. “So O’Rourke needs to find his voice if he’s going to beat Abbott. He’s trailing right now. He’s got to figure out a way to motivate his voters to come out and if cursing is working for him, then we might see more of it.”
It’s not the first time O’Rourke has cursed during campaign events, whether in relation to gun control, the media or other politicians. Smith said it’s a trend he’s seeing in politics — not just from O’Rourke, but others too.
“Sometimes it slips out,” he said. “So I don’t think it works like ‘oh, I’m going to use the F-bomb to try to get voters.’ I think it’s just in the heat of the moment. You use the word and sometimes, you know, in the heat of the moment, curse words are what we all resort to because they they have that effect.”
O’Rourke has advocated for reversing the state’s permitless carry law, pursuing red flag laws and banning AR-15-style weapons, among other gun control measures in the wake of the Uvalde shooting. It’s likely to be a pivotal part of his campaign as we move closer to the fall, but especially if the Texas power grid holds this summer, it won’t be enough to close the gap with Abbott, Smith said.
“He’s got to figure out in the next three months, what else does Beto O’Rourke bring to the table? If it’s just swearing and gun control, that’s not going to be enough to defeat Governor Abbott,” he said.
In the wake of the Uvalde shooting, despite immense pressure from Democrats to call a special session on gun control, Abbott pointed instead to improving Texas’ mental health system and lack of resources.
“Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is absolutely yes. And there will be laws in multiple different subject areas. For example, I do fully expect to have every law that we pass in the aftermath of the Santa Fe shooting to be completely revisited,” Abbott has previously said.
As far as O’Rourke’s outburst, Abbott’s communications director did not comment, except to clarify the person in the crowd was not associated with the governor’s campaign.
“I think he’s just going to let this one go and say, when he runs his ads, just talking about ‘I am Greg Abbott, and here are my qualifications,'” Smith said.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke’s staff is leaning into his fiery, now viral, remarks.
“There’s nothing funny about 19 kids being shot to death in their classrooms, and there’s nothing OK about refusing to act so it doesn’t happen again,” said Chris Evans, communications director for O’Rourke.