State lawmakers were catching a lot of heat for the reception they gave Monday to fellow House member Naomi Gonzalez who is accused of drunk driving.
Representative Gonzalez was back on the House floor Tuesday except for a few brief conferences with fellow lawmakers she spent much of the morning quietly sitting by herself. Monday, it was a much different scene all eyes were on her as she issued a public apology.
"I made a mistake and I'm deeply, deeply sorry for it," said Rep. Gonzalez from the House floor on Monday.
The El Paso Democrat was arrested last week after a downtown wreck. Police say she was drunk- twice of the legal limit. Her apology on the first day back to work since bonding out of jail triggered a surprising reaction in the House Chamber. Several members stood and applauded Gonzalez. There were hugs and someone even sent flowers to her desk.
Tuesday, the flowers were no longer there and State Rep. Patricia Harless explained the show of support Monday was more about loving the sinner -- not the sin.
"We were supporting her ... confession, her apology, her saying I made a mistake, I don't condone this behavior, I'm sorry for it, and I'm sorry for the embarrassment I brought on for this Body and my family, and it took a lot of courage to stand up and do that, so close after the accident," said Harless (R) Spring.
Not everyone in the Chamber, according to Rep. Tony Dale, stood, applauded or thought what happened Monday was appropriate.
"Well it was awkward, I was surprised by it and I didn't stand up and I've seen media reports that there was a standing ovation, certainly some members stood up I chose not to." Said the Republican from Cedar Park.
The incident lit up social media sites like the FOX 7 web page and on Facebook. Some of the comments include:
"A standing ovation, hugs and high-fives???" said HappyAsALark.
"She gets a standing ovation and hugs. What did the person she rear-ended get or the cyclist? PRISON is where she belongs," said Jesse Marconez.
"U gotta love these lawmakers! Where do they get these people?!" said Kim Soriano.
"Bet most of us wouldn't get a high five" said Carye J-d.
"Warm hugs? High fives?? Flowers??? It's good to know our lawMAKERS, are so lenient on the lawBREAKERS! They're totally sending out the right message! Hit a car, and a cyclist and you get warm hugs and flowers! " said Roxanne Hernandez.
Former House Speaker Gibson "Gib" Lewis said he heard similar comments on the morning news while he was heading to the capitol Tuesday.
"I think the
public misunderstood what the standing ovation means," he said.
Lewis says he doesn't consider what took place in the chamber he once led to be any kind endorsement of bad behavior.
"Number one, every member has a personal privilege, and that's what she did--exercise her personal privilege to get up and apologize to the House for embarrassing the house and her intent was. I feel, and I don't see anything wrong with that. I think it was proper and the members of the legislature though it was proper and show their appreciation by her doing that," Lewis.
Lewis has felt the sting of a mistake going public.
In 2009 he was also charged with drunk driving. The arrest made headlines even though Lewis had been out of public office for more than a decade.
For Representative Gonzalez it's an indication just how difficult it will be for her to keep a low profile this legislative session as her case moves the justice system.