U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, recently upped his profile as an outspoken and provocative liberal when he bashed Texas as a “crazy” state.
At a Feb. 2 House Rules Committee hearing, lawmakers were discussing Texas’ decision not to participate in state healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. At one point, Hastings said, “I don’t know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with, and I mean that just as I said it.”
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, called Hastings’ comment “defamatory,” setting off a battle later parodied on The Daily Show.
Then, on Feb. 5, Hastings gave an interview on CNN in which he cited Texas law to bolster his case that the state is “crazy.”
Hastings is a former federal judge who was acquitted by a federal jury of bribery charges in 1983, later impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from the federal bench in 1989 by the Senate.
Neverthless, he was elected to Congress in 1992 and represents District 20, which includes parts of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. Hastings, a resident of Miramar, is one of Broward County’s longest-serving politicians and plans to seek reelection in 2016.
Hastings told CNN that “one of their cities has a law that says that women can only have six dildos, and the certain size of things. And if that ain’t crazy, I don’t know what is.”
Hastings had his facts bungled, though it is true that Texas wrote a law in the 1970s that banned the promotion of “obscene devices.”
Part of the statute said, “A person who possesses six or more obscene devices or identical or similar obscene articles is presumed to possess them with intent to promote the same.”
But in 2004, stores that wanted to sell such devices sued to overturn the law, and in 2008 a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court of Appeals’ Fifth Circuit struck down the Texas law, concluding that it violated 14th Amendment right to privacy. That was a state law, not a city law, and it’s no longer in force. We rated his statement Mostly False.
He also said that there’s a Texas law “that you can’t shoot bears out of the second floor of a window.”
Mike Cox, Austin-based spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told PolitiFact Texas that you can’t shoot bears from any location. “You can’t shoot them from the second floor, you can’t shoot them from the first floor, you can’t shoot them from the 23rd floor. You flat can’t shoot them.”
We rated that claim Pants on Fire.
We’ve also fact-checked Hastings on a claim about ballot access. Hastings was a vocal opponent of an effort led by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls in 2012. The project was rife with errors including that the list of potential noncitizens included Bill Internicola, a Brooklyn-born World War II veteran and longtime voter in Broward.
Hastings and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, invited Internicola to a news conference to draw attention to the controversy.
Hastings asked Internicola whether the Broward Supervisor of Elections had mailed him a stamped envelope to send back his proof of citizenship. The answer: No. That led Hastings to say this during the news conference:
“There is also a backdoor poll tax. In the letter that he [Internicola] received I asked him a moment ago he did not have a prepaid envelope to send it back, meaning he had to buy a stamp. Don’t tell me how little it is — that stamp is a cost. And the state should not be about the business of emaciating voter rights. They should be in the business of causing people to participate.”
Hastings is correct that there were some similarities between the poll tax and Florida’s search for noncitizen voters, including that minorities in both cases were disproportionately affected. But there are some important differences including that the poll tax had a far more widespread effect than Florida’s search for noncitizen voters. We rated that Half True. Detzner later abandoned the plan to search for noncitizen voters before the 2012 election. He later announced he would relaunch his project, but then backed off again in 2014.
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Politifact Florida is a partnership between The Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald to check out truth in politics.