Amid growing frustration from conservative grassroots over his string of unilateral executive orders in response to the Chinese coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott defended his actions to Texas Republicans on Thursday.
In the first recorded address on the first day of the Republican Party of Texas’ virtual convention, Abbott acknowledged the frustration and defended his actions, specifically his recent statewide mask order.
“I know that many of you all are frustrated. So am I,” said Abbott. “I know that many of you do not like the mask requirement. I don’t either. It is the last thing that I wanted to do. Actually, the next to last. The last thing that any of us want is to lock Texas back down again.”
Abbott then stressed that “each day, the facts get worse,” citing an uptick in cases of the coronavirus.
“If we don’t slow this disease quickly … I fear it will even inflict some of the people that I’m talking to right now.”
In addition to specifically defending his mask order, Abbott also directly addressed concerns over the constitutionality of his executive orders, which have shut down or placed heavy restrictions on businesses across the state over the past several months.
“I also know many of you say my orders are unconstitutional,” said Abbott, citing his time as the state’s attorney general, when he sued the federal government on behalf of Texans’ constitutional rights, in order to reinforce his credibility.
“I will never abandon the Constitution, and I haven’t here,” he added, pointing to a decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that painted his orders as a “constitutional and necessary response to the pandemic.”
On the Texas GOP’s Facebook page, party activists were near unanimous in criticizing the governor.
“We knew Abbott is a tyrant, now we know that he is a liar, too,” wrote Lubbock activist Jim Baxa.
“Funny Abbott had to use his video slot to try and convince us he believes in the Constitution,” wrote True Texas Project’s Julie McCarty.
“He would have been roundly booed at a live convention. This is how he avoided it,” said Jim Pikl, a conservative activist and attorney from Collin County. “He also lied about what the Fifth Circuit held. Sad.”
The comments come as more and more counties across Texas pass resolutions censuring Abbott for his unilateral executive actions under the Chinese coronavirus emergency. Convention delegates may also approve a legislative priority calling for the governor’s emergency powers to be limited.