Documents support Dan Patrick claim he didn't post tweet to blame Orlando shooting victims
Documents we reviewed Wednesday support Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s insistence that a "reaps what you sow" Biblical excerpt he put online at about the time 49 overnight shooting deaths in Orlando came to light Sunday had been scheduled to appear on Twitter days before the horrific rampage at a gay night club.
Patrick, citing hateful comments, deleted his tweet four hours after its 7 a.m. debut. At the time, the Houston Republican said his quotation of the Biblical verse hadn’t been posted to react to the Orlando tragedy. Rather, he said, it had been scheduled to post days before as he’d previously set up Sunday morning posts celebrating his Christian beliefs.
Earlier this week, we shared the analysis of Jonathan Tilove, chief political writer for the Austin American-Statesman, that it wasn’t reasonable to conclude, based on available information, that Patrick had reacted to the 49 deaths by posting the verse stating a man "reaps what you sow."
We said too that we hadn’t fact-checked Patrick’s explanation for the tweet, leading a few readers to urge us to get crackin’.
Along those lines, we emailed Patrick’s consultant, Allen Blakemore, asking him for documentary proof the tweet in question wasn’t fired off to blame the shooting victims. (Worth noting: Political campaigns and consultants aren’t subject to open-record laws. They’re not government employees or agencies.)
Blakemore then initiated a Wednesday interview with Tilove at the American-Statesman which we joined.
In the interview, Blakemore said the Sunday tweets from Patrick are typically scheduled on the Thursday before using the Twitter account alone -- no third-party tool. He also said it’s not possible to recapture evidence of a tweet being scheduled once it’s posted, a characterization that we ran past Apryl Pilolli, manager of social analytics for the Cox Media Group, of which the Statesman is a part. By email, Pilolli later told us she confirmed that it’s possible to schedule tweets in advance on the Twitter platform, as described by Twitter here, and that after a scheduled tweet posts, there’s no way to tell if it was scheduled in advance.
Weekly, Blakemore told us, Patrick’s social media team -- which includes employees of Austin-based Harris Media -- identifies the Scripture that Patrick might highlight in a Sunday tweet and Facebook post by checking the verseoftheday.com website and considering parameters such as limits on the number of words for a successful tweet (it shouldn’t take up more than 20 percent of the space in the tweet) and finding an "appropriate visual."
Blakemore noted that the Galatians excerpt that ended up in Patrick’s 7 a.m. Sunday tweet was posted on the verseoftheday.com site as its offering for Tuesday June 7 (see it there, here).
Blakemore didn’t leave documents with us. But he showed us what appeared to be an email sent by an Eric at Harris Media, subject line: "Dan Patrick Bible Posts Due 12 pm," which was sent at 1:58 a.m. Thursday June 9, three days before Sunday.
The emil said: "Imagery: plowed field similar to this (which leads to a field photo). The email also presents the scriptural excerpt from Galatians 6:7.
Blakemore also showed what appeared to be an email from a Christopher combining the excerpt and a color photo (the image that ended up in the tweet) plus a reply from later that Thursday stating: "Beautiful. Grayson, please schedule for Sunday without captions."
Blakemore also showed what appears to be the email reply from a Harris Media employee: "Done!" A notation on the document compiling the emails says the tweet was scheduled as of 4:12 p.m. Thursday.