Texas History

Emails Suggest Abbott's Chris Kyle Day Was a Publicity Grab, But We Knew That

Remember back in February, when newly inaugurated Governor Greg Abbott decided to remake Groundhog Day as Chris Kyle Day, purportedly to honor the anniversary of the death of the author of American Sniper? That seemed strange, as typically holidays celebrating individuals occur on or near their birthday, rather than the day they died. Martin Luther King Jr. day is celebrated in January, not April. President's Day is in February, the month both Lincoln and Washington were born, not April or December. None of those guys ever shot their fellow Americans with a sniper rifle, either — as Kyle reportedly said he did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Kyle had an overriding thing going for him leading up to Abbott's proclamation, however: An enormously popular, Oscar-nominated, Clint Eastwood-directed hagiography. 

The Texas Tribune obtained a trove of emails from inside the governor's office for a story that provides a fascinating peek inside how Abbott works. You should give it a read. In the meantime, here's a taste. It's our favorite part.
The “BIG QUESTION,’’ he wrote in all-caps, was whether or not he should announce the big day ahead of time — at a speech before a veterans group — or just on Chris Kyle Day itself.

“If we reveal this now, will it lead to copy cat efforts by other state officials that diminish the profundity of my taking the official action on Feb. 2?” he asked. “Would it be better to keep this under wraps until the official day?”

A little over an hour later, Abbott — who had spent 12 years as Texas attorney general — marveled that he alone could determine the hour and circumstances of his proclamation.

“What will be done on Feb. 2 is that I, as governor, will make an official proclamation announcing that Feb. 2, 2015 is Chris Kyle Day,” he wrote. “The beauty of that is that no one other than the governor can make such an official proclamation. However the House and Senate may also make similar proclamations. If we wait until the 2nd, our proclamation will be one of many.”   

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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