Nov. 21, 2023
Stitt, Mullin Face Scrutiny Over Public Comments
By Keaton Ross | Democracy/Criminal Justice Reporter
One threatened to fight a union boss on the U.S. Senate floor. The other vowed support for a lobbying group that wants state lawmakers to reduce criminal penalties for cockfighting.
Last week was controversial for Sen. Markwayne Mullin and Gov. Kevin Stitt, who both faced criticism from elected officials, media outlets and the general public over public comments.
In a video message to the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, Stitt said he was disappointed he could not make an in-person appearance at the group’s meeting but wanted to “cheer you on from the sidelines.”
“I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in the next legislative session,” Stitt said in the 71-second video.
Animal rights organizations and former Oklahoma elected officials were quick to condemn the comments. Cockfighting in Oklahoma has been a felony offense since 2002, when more than 56% of voters supported a state question to criminalize the bloodsport.
“It is an embarrassment to me that any elected official seeks to turn back the clock on this morally settled issue,” former Gov. Frank Keating said in a statement. “Talk of decriminalizing cockfighting is toxic to the idea of economic development and forward progress for our great state.”
In a statement to NonDoc, Stitt’s communications director Abegail Cave said the governor is not in favor of any sort of animal cruelty but made the video to show his support for Oklahoma’s agricultural community.
The Gamefowl Commission says it supports breeders who raise fighting chickens and show them off or ship them to other countries where the blood sport is legal. While it’s against state and federal law to sell gamefowl for fighting purposes, the purchasers may breed the chickens and have their offspring fight. However, a former district director for the organization was arrested in August on cockfighting charges.
In Washington, D.C. last Tuesday,, Mullin faced backlash for threatening to punch Teamsters union president Sean O’Brien during a Senate committee hearing.
In May, O’Brien fired off a series of tweets calling Mullin a fraud and making fun of his 5-foot-8-inch stature. During Tuesday’s hearing, Mullin quoted the tweets and asked O’Brien “to stand his butt up.” O’Brien agreed, but Sen. Bernie Sanders intervened and both men sat down.
Mullin doubled down on his comments in an interview with News 9’s Haley Wegner, saying that he was simply defending himself. Speaking with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Mullin said he was “representing Oklahoma values” by threatening to punch O’Brien.
The Oklahoman’s Clytie Bunyan countered that notion in an editorial published Thursday.
“No people in this country crave violence less than Oklahomans,” Bunyan wrote. “We’re still trying to overcome the legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre. We’re still coming to terms with the brutality of the Osage killings, now more widely known because of the movie “Killers of the Flower Moon.” And far too many people still bear physical and emotional scars from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing that resulted in the deaths of 168 men, women and children in Oklahoma City.”
Have story ideas, tips or thoughts as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org.
What I’m Reading This Week:
- Report: Oklahoma to Pay $3.3 Million for Stitt’s Tribal Legal Fees: A Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency report found the Office of Management and Enterprise Services is paying the legal fees associated with state-tribal disputes through a tribal gaming compliance fund, which pays for the oversight of gaming operations. [Oklahoma Voice]
- Muscogee Nation Sues City of Tulsa, Accusing it of Violating McGirt Precedent: The lawsuit names Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, Police Wendell Franklin and City Attorney Jack Blair. The nation is seeking injunctions against the city because they say Tulsa continues to prosecute Native people for traffic offenses committed within the tribal nation’s reservation boundaries. [KOSU]
- With Oklahoma Executions Ramping Up, Some Push Death Penalty Moratorium: the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission issued a 2017 report recommending the state stop executing inmates, at least in the near term. Now, those recommendations and other concerns are being discussed again at a time when the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is preparing to execute Phil Hancock on Nov. 30. [NonDoc]
The Top Story
A Department of Corrections investigation recommended manslaughter charges after Lawton prison staff left an injured inmate to die. Now, his mother is suing staff and the operator of Oklahoma’s lone private prison. [Read More]
Tax forms show the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association has received more than $2 million from a Tulsa-based debt collection agency since 2018. Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit claim Aberdeen Enterprises II threatened indigent debtors with jail time and worked with sheriffs across the state to issue arrest warrants when payment did not come. [Read More]
Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.
Thank you to our principal organizational sponsors and funders
for their generous support.