Texas Democrat Doesn't Deny He Threatened Fellow Lawmaker, Tries to Justify Actions

May 30, 2017

Texas State Rep. Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez (D.) would not deny Tuesday that he threatened a fellow lawmaker at the Texas State Capitol the prior day, and instead tried to justify his actions.

Nevárez did not deny that he threatened Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R.) during a chaotic legislative session, which was interrupted by protesters demonstrating against a proposed bill that would ban so-called "sanctuary cities" in Texas and allow law enforcement to question individuals about their immigration status.

Rinaldi claims that Nevárez threatened to "get" him when he went to his car later after the Republican lawmaker called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the protesters, some of whom he claimed were illegal immigrants. Rinaldi said that he would shoot Nevárez in self-defense if he did attack.

CNN host Brooke Baldwin spoke to Nevárez and another lawmaker who was present about Nevárez's alleged threats. She first read Rinaldi's statement on the incident before asking Nevárez about it.

"So Rep. Nevárez, did you threaten him?" Baldwin asked.

"I asked him, I said I threatened him, I asked him to leave the floor," Nevárez responded.

"Well, there's a difference between asking and threatening," Baldwin said. "Which was it?"

Nevárez did not deny what happened on the legislative floor and said it was not acceptable.

"But we were provoked. I was provoked," Nevárez said.

Baldwin again tried to clarify what happened.

"I just want you to own it as well. Did you threaten him?" she asked.

"No, what I'm owning is if you look at the video, I got up in the guy's face. I mean, there's no need for me to do that," Nevárez responded. "He dangled something in front of me and provoked me."

Nevárez then tried to justify his actions by criticizing the proposed legislation that Texas lawmakers were debating.

"But it doesn't take away from what started this, and what started this is this piece of legislation that gives people like Rinaldi license to feel like he can insult people and push us. And the fact is, we were provoked; I was provoked," Nevárez said. "They pushed us long and hard and they were pushing those people in the gallery, and you know what, we're not going to stand for it anymore."

Baldwin then called out the Democratic lawmaker for the example he and his colleagues set with their behavior.

"But gentlemen, you are elected officials," Baldwin said. "I mean, no matter which side of the issue you fall on, you guys nearly came to a full-out brawl on the House floor. What does that say to Texans, what does that say to Americans, children, and the protesters there about civility?"