Source: Ronald Kolb

Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke recently announced his candidacy for governor of Texas against incumbent Greg Abbott after the former’s failed campaigns for U.S. Senate in 2018 and president in 2020.  One issue that has followed him was his arrest report of a DUI hit-and-run in 1998, released in August 2018 by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express.  Up until that time, he had admitted to the DUI without mentioning the accident and fleeing the scene. 

During a debate in September with eventual victor Ted Cruz, a moderator brought it up, and O’Rourke said, “I did not try to leave the scene of the accident.”  Then he repeated a familiar comment before the report had been released: that he was given a “second chance” only because he was a white man.  Days later in the Washington Post, fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave O’Rourke “Four Pinocchios,” which qualifies as a “whopper.”  Just four days later, during friendly questioning by the Texas Tribune, O’Rourke was asked again whether he had fled the scene of the accident.  “I did not flee,” he replied, and the “police report is wrong.”  O’Rourke then added that he had recently “reached out to a passenger who was in the car,” and “she” said that “we did not try to flee.”  O’Rourke was not asked and did not volunteer who “she” was. 

Then, in 2019, soon after his loss to Cruz, when O’Rourke had announced he was running for the White House, he was asked again by Vanity Fair about whether he had fled the accident.  He now claimed that the mystery woman was “Michelle” and added that after he was arrested, police took him and his mystery passenger to a gas station and dropped her off (which would have been about three in the morning), and he gave her money so she could go home.  He spent the night in jail and was bailed out the next morning by his father, former El Paso County Judge Pat O’Rourke, who before his death suggested that the young O’Rourke, then going by “Rob,” go back to using his childhood nickname of “Beto” if he wanted to succeed in politics in Hispanic-dominated El Paso.  After completing a diversion program, O’Rourke’s driver’s license was eventually returned. 

There are several problems with O’Rourke’s changing explanations.  When arresting officer Richard Carrera wrote his report in 1998, he mentioned that O’Rourke was traveling on Interstate 10 at a high rate of speed west from El Paso in Anthony, Texas when he struck a truck and careened across the grass median and began to flee east on the other side of the interstate.  A good Samaritan motorist whom O’Rourke had nearly struck followed him across the median and honked his horn and blinked his lights and finally got O’Rourke to stop.  When Carrera arrived, he talked to the unnamed witness/reporter first and wrote that he was accompanied by a passenger. 

Then he spoke to O’Rourke, who was extremely drunk and “almost fell to the floor” when asked to leave the vehicle.  O’Rourke told him he had had two beers, failed several sobriety tests, and was arrested.  Carrera made no mention of a passenger with O’Rourke as he did with the witness.  O’Rourke’s next stop was a substation in west El Paso, where the breathalyzer showed that he had had at least six beers.  He was booked and spent the night in jail. 

I recently attended an event in Corpus Christi, billed as a town hall, that featured O’Rourke.  I intended to ask him about “Michelle” and his ever-changing stories and about what the record clearly showed.  When he arrived and made his way to a stage on a patio of a local restaurant and was walking past me, I asked him who “Michelle” was — who was this woman who could verify that he did not flee the scene of the accident fueled by the DUI?  He said, “I’ll talk to you afterward” and got up on the podium.  After speaking for about ten minutes, he walked off into the crowd and posed for selfies, and took brief questions one-on-one.  I worked my way back up to him, and when I approached a nervous O’Rourke, I said I was still waiting for an answer about who “Michelle” was. 

I asked him if the police had dropped her off in the middle of the night at a gas station.  “Who is she?”  “She’s a friend of mine,” he replied, “a private person” and couldn’t say any more than that.  I noted that the police report said that he’d fled and that another driver had flagged him down.  He again denied that he had fled.  I asked again if the police had let “Michelle” out in the middle of the night, and he said, “They did, they did.”  I said they would never do that, and then his staff moved in, and I was done. 

I later contacted former officer Gary Hargrove, who was Carrera’s supervisor at the time.  I asked him if any officer would have dropped off a passenger with a DUI suspect at a gas station in the middle of the night.  He’s never heard of anything like that and insisted that it would never have happened.  I asked him if Officer Carrera would have ever filed a false police report, and he said he did not and would not.  I then mentioned that looking at the available facts, it appeared that O’Rourke was not being honest, and Hargrove agreed with me. 

When the issue came up with Vanity Fair in 2019, the magazine noted that it would likely come up again.  It should, now, in his campaign for governor.  With O’Rourke’s ever-evolving stories against what the record clearly shows, it remains a serious issue, and it should until he finally admits the truth.