The former chair of the largest county Republican Party in Texas and noted anti-LGBTQ activist knew his business partner was accused of sexually abusing a child, but continued to “pay” his business partner — with young male assistants instead of a salary.
On the same day that Texas Republicans moved several anti-LGBTQ bills in the state legislature under the false guise of protecting children from predators, the Texas Tribune broke an explosive story about sexual abuse, cover-ups, and what appears to be a form of sex trafficking involving one of the state’s leading anti-LGBTQ advocates. Notorious Houston GOP leader Jared Woodfill recently admitted under oath that he has known since 2004 that his longtime law partner and Southern Baptist leader, Paul Pressler, was accused of sexually abusing a minor who attended Pressler’s Bible study. Woodfill helped Pressler quietly settle with the victim for $450,000. Robert Downen’s must-read piece shows that Woodfill did not cut ties with Pressler after this accusation and settlement, and went on to lie when, in 2016, he said he had no knowledge of Pressler’s alleged behavior when another young man came forward with sexual misconduct accusations. And Woodfill’s enabling behavior went far beyond simply covering up these accusations. Woodfill testified that since 2004, he has “paid” Pressler by providing him with a “string of employees” – young men – to serve as Pressler’s personal assistants in his lavish home. Two of these assistants have since accused Pressler of “sexual assault or misconduct.” Woodfill’s behavior – covering for and actively supporting an alleged predator – is revealed at a time when his party is projecting abuse accusations outward, dangerously and falsely attacking vulnerable Texans under the guise of protecting children.
The GOP insider with friendly ties all the way to the top
Jared Woodfill’s ties and influence in the Texas GOP run deep. He led the party in the former stronghold of Harris County for 12 years. When he subsequently ran for Chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Woodfill was “proudly endorsed” by longtime ally Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, who is currently at the state Capitol advocating for “saving children.” Woodfill has deep ties to Saenz and Texas Values: he was a board member and PAC treasurer in 2017, the height of the anti-transgender bathroom bill hysteria. Under Woodfill’s and Saenz’s guidance, Texas Values has endorsed many top Texas Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, indicted Attorney General Ken Patxon, and Texas House firebrands – and members of Speaker Dade Phelan’s leadership team – Briscoe Cain and Jeff Leach.
Woodfill is also a prominent personal endorser of a number of Texas elected lawmakers who continue to tout his support, including State Sen. Paul Bettencourt and State Rep. Valoree Swanson. Paul Pressler himself has also been a sought-after supporter: Texas Senator Ted Cruz promoted Paul Pressler’s endorsement in his 2016 presidential campaign, State Sen. Bryan Hughes was a guest of Pressler’s at a 2010 event, where Pressler called Hughes an “outstanding Christian member of the Texas legislature,” and now-State Rep Terri Leo-Wilson featured Pressler in her State Board of Education campaign.
Woodfill, Texas Values and the hypocrisy of the Texas Legislature
Texas Republicans have made this session’s main theme attacking the LGBTQ community on false and insulting grounds, returning to a decades-old lie of portraying LGBTQ people as predators. But their attention would best be turned inward, as they have a growing list of credibly accused child predators in their own ranks. It’s almost as if all of these false accusations are a diversion to draw attention away from their own predatory problems.
So why is it that House Speaker Dade Phelan (R- Beaumont) and Republican Governor Greg Abbott make common cause with groups like Texas Values and advance their dangerous agenda, even with their ties to known pedophiles and enablers? If they truly care about keeping children safe from sexual predators, why are they not loudly condemning this behavior, cutting ties, and focusing their legislative might on preventing similar abuse and cover-ups in the future? It’s hard to say exactly, but a lack of courage and decency certainly tops the list. Or maybe all of their rhetoric about saving children is as hollow as the Governor’s empty pledge to “eliminate all rapists” in the state – political theater that ignores real victims in service of an extreme agenda that puts even more vulnerable people in danger.