After making a series of offensive comments aimed at former first lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Houston City Council Member Greg Travis faced backlash from residents, fellow council members and Mayor Sylvester Turner this week.
The reprimand stemmed from a Dec. 29 Facebook post shared by Travis that compared Obama in a slouched pose to first lady Melania Trump sitting up straight. Travis continued, in comments that have since been taken down, by questioning Obama’s intelligence and attributing her acceptance to Harvard University to affirmative action. He also attributed Clinton’s success to her husband’s presidency rather than her own qualifications and said Harris received her position by engaging in improper romantic relationships.
Residents called for his resignation, censure and removal during the City Council public comment session Jan. 5; however, no formal action was taken during the Jan. 6 council meeting.
“His comments are indicative of a past and present of misogyny, patriarchy and racism. This is about more than just how Michelle Obama was sitting or how Vice President-elect Kamala Harris got to where she is today,” said Ashton P. Woods, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Houston. “This is about someone who can’t fathom a woman, let alone a Black woman, being able to walk with a big stick and hold her own and represent people with honor.”
Another caller, John Cobarruvias, who labeled himself as a conservative from Clear Lake, criticized those who defended Travis, a conservative representing the west Houston area, despite his comments.
“Racists across this country have faced no consequence for their actions, and now one has popped up on City Council,” Cobarruvias said. “This is personal to me. Unfortunately we had an individual come into my yard and make racist comments toward my neighbor. ... This individual was empowered by the lack of action taken by those who had blown racist dog whistles in the past.”
Although no formal action was taken against Travis on Jan. 6, council members and Turner rebuked the comments as racist, misogynistic and hurtful to many beyond the three women they were targeted toward.
“I am born Black but competed against folks at Klein High School and graduated No. 1 in my class. Affirmative action had nothing to do with me being ranked No. 1 and going to University of Houston and achieving there and going to Harvard and achieving there and coming back to the city of Houston,” Turner said. “I don’t take a second seat to anybody, and I give a great deal of credit to the Black woman who reared nine kids by herself.”
Council Member Carolyn Evans Shabazz mentioned a potential convening of the council’s ethics, elections and governance committee to discuss the matter; however, no such meeting has been confirmed. Prominent groups such as the Houston chapters of the NAACP and the Urban League have also denounced the comments.
“It was quite refreshing to hear people speak up,” said Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex Tatum, at times fighting back tears. “As a 52-year-old Black woman, it's exhausting sometimes to constantly stand up and speak out. ... Black women have overcome immense challenges ... and we will continue to fight for the betterment of all Houstonians.”
Travis told Community Impact Newspaper he did not intend to apologize and only targeted his comments at the women he mentioned.
“I don’t mind Democrats. I have a lot of friends who are Democrats, but I don’t like extreme liberalism,” Travis said. “[The comments] had nothing to do with race or gender or anything, they just had to do with extreme liberalism.”
Houston City Council Member Greg Travis faces reprimand over Facebook post
District G Houston City Council Member Greg Travis is facing backlash for comments about Michelle Obama, Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton made in a Facebook post. (Courtesy City of Houston)(Courtesy city of Houston)