NYT’s Fernandez Fights for Downtrodden Texas Democrats, Sees Sanctions Against 'Bathroom Bill'

July 23rd, 2017 2:47 PM

New York Times Houston-based reporter Manny Fernandez continues to champion Democrats and act frightened of the dominant state Republican Party. First, his “Austin Journal” on Friday, “Long-Suffering Texas Democrats Suffer On as Lawmakers Meet,” overtly sympathized with those downtrodden Texas Democrats. The next day, Fernandez made a slanted, label-heavy return to the subject of the state's "bathroom bill":

On the opening day of a special legislative session here Tuesday, a small circle of women stood in the Texas heat near the south steps of the Capitol, making soft, sweet and rebellious music.

The Resistance Choir of South Central Texas was warming up. Members of the Texas Legislature and their aides strolled past, without pausing. The Republican-dominated body, in a rush to pass a Republican-dominated 20-item agenda in 30 days, just doesn’t have time for a cappella. To the tune of “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” a Jamaican folk song popularized by Harry Belafonte, the Resistance Choir sang, “Day-O, Day-O, Texas Lege, don’t you wanna go home?”

When the song was over -- complete with references to the bathroom bill, the ban on sanctuary cities and the $1 million taxpayer price-tag for the special session -- Sara Jorgensen, 42, lyric sheet in hand, spoke of the ensemble’s primary goal.


For beleaguered and long-suffering Democrats in conservative Texas, it has come to this -- earworm activism.

Note the quote marks around the term “sanctuary cities,” as if the editors are warning us away from conservative propaganda: “Young women wearing Quinceañera dresses walked through the Texas Capitol in Austin on Wednesday to protest S.B. 4, an anti-“sanctuary cities” bill.

“Cleverly worded” is debatable in this passage:

Democrats made cleverly worded anti-bathroom-bill signs (“Let my people pee!” read one). There was a brief flash of tension as protesters marched to the office of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but a kind of southern civility set in, and everyone ended up waiting patiently in line to sign the guest book outside the glass doors. And there was an appearance by Wendy Davis, a Democrat who lost the 2014 race for governor and who helped lead protest chants in the Capitol rotunda on Tuesday.


Seven weeks after a shoving match broke out on the House floor between Republican and Democratic lawmakers in May, some degree of bipartisanship was still evident. Ms. Thompson had a friendly chat outside the House chamber with State Representative Jonathan Stickland, a Republican from Bedford and a firebrand conservative who helped kill one of her bills.

Texas Democrats each have their own ways of resisting, and coping. State Representative Ramon Romero Jr., a Fort Worth Democrat, leaned on a table and put his signature to House Bill 53, a bill he wrote to repeal the ban on sanctuary cities, which many Hispanic Democrats say is anti-immigrant. The ink was not even dry when Mr. Romero acknowledged it was a long shot. This, as much as anything else, defines the Democratic way in Texas: persistently believing in, and acting on, long shots.

For Saturday’s print edition, Fernandez teamed up again with Danny Montgomery on the Texas bathroom bill, after an incredibly slanted take Wednesday. There were eight “conservative” labels from the reporters in Saturday's story, versus zero “liberal” labels, in “Texas Senate Wades Back Into a High-Stakes Debate on Bathroom Bill”:

Amid conflicting pressures from gay rights groups, social conservatives, corporations and the state’s Republican leadership, the Texas Senate on Friday waded back into the volatile issue of restricting bathroom use by transgender people in government buildings and schools.

The issue, which roiled North Carolina for more than a year and led to boycotts and other economic blowback, has become one of the most heated and high-stakes political dramas in Texas. It has deepened the divide between moderate Republicans and social conservatives and caused widespread fears that a wave of boycotts and protests would do serious damage to the Texas economy, which is still feeling the effects of a drop in the price of oil.

Given the presence in Texas, the second most populous state, of three of the nation’s 10 largest cities, the economic stakes from boycotts or cancellations of concerts and athletic events could dwarf what played out in North Carolina.


The newly elected mayor of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg, told the senators in opposing the bill that the mere filing of it has already cost his city millions of dollars in lost conventions. A number of transgender Texans testified against it, including Sierra Jane Davis, 22, a transgender woman from Austin and a former Marine.

Ms. Davis, who has the Marine Corps emblem tattooed on her left arm, said in an interview outside the hearing that the bill would “open the floodgates to more and more legislation, and lets the public see that we are allowed to be discriminated against.”

(Coincidentally, a front-page article that same day on I.C.E., the federal immigration enforcement team, also quoted a Marine with tattoos, but with a bit less respect, describing him this way: “He amassed tattoos the way others collect shot glasses....”)

Social conservatives, led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have denied that the bill discriminates against anyone and have accused critics of exaggerating the potential economic damage. They said the issue is about public safety and women’s privacy.

“It’s not about transgender,” Trayce Bradford, the president of a conservative group called the Texas Eagle Forum, told the Senate committee. “It’s about feeling safe. There has to be some boundaries.”

Ms. Bradford, who said she was stalked and sexually assaulted in college, said conservative activists have been unfairly accused of spreading hate by backing the legislation. “I don’t know of any conservative who wants to serve as the potty police,” she said.

It's fascinating to see the liberal Times suddenly championing the views of religion and big business:

The next day, the chief executives of 14 Dallas-based companies -- including corporate giants like American Airlines, AT&T Inc., Southwest Airlines and Texas Instruments -- sent a letter to the governor expressing concern that the bill “would seriously hurt the state’s ability to attract new businesses, investment and jobs.”

And on Wednesday, the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church wrote to the speaker of the Texas House and suggested that if the bill passed, the church would cancel its nine-day General Convention in Austin scheduled for July 2018.