Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1995
Preceded byCraig Washington
Member of the Houston City Council
from the at-large district
In office
January 2, 1990 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byAnthony Hall
Succeeded byJohn Peavy
Personal details
Born
Sheila Jackson

(1950-01-12) January 12, 1950 (age 74)
Queens, New York City, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse
(m. 1973)
[1]
Children2
EducationYale University (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Sheila Jackson Lee (born January 12, 1950) is an American lawyer and politician who is the U.S. representative for Texas's 18th congressional district, having served since 1995. The district includes most of central Houston. She is a member of the Democratic Party and served as an at-large member of the Houston City Council before being elected to the House. She is also co-dean of Texas's congressional delegation.

Born in Queens, New York, Jackson Lee graduated from Yale University in 1972 and the University of Virginia School of Law in 1975. In 1987, after she had moved to Houston, she was appointed as a municipal judge for the city by Kathy Whitmire. In 1989, Jackson Lee was elected to the Houston City Council. She served in the office until 1994 when she began a campaign for Congress. In the Democratic primary, she defeated incumbent Craig Washington and went on to easily win the general election. Since 1995, she has retained her position as the U.S. Representative from Texas's 18th congressional district.

During her congressional tenure, Jackson Lee has been a supporter of many progressive policies.[2] She introduced the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act in 2013 and the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act in 2021. In 2019, Jackson Lee stepped down as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and a subcommittee in the House Judiciary after a lawsuit filed by a former staffer claimed she was fired due to planned legal action against an alleged rape by a supervisor.

Jackson Lee announced her candidacy for the 2023 Houston mayoral election in March of that year. In the first round, she placed second behind state senator John Whitmire. However, as no candidate crossed the 50% threshold to win outright, a runoff election occurred on December 9, 2023. Despite several key endorsements, Jackson Lee lost the election in a landslide to Whitmire. On December 11, she filed to run for re-election to her congressional seat, and would successfully win the Democratic primary on March 5, 2024.

Early life and career in Texas

External videos
video icon Congresswoman Jackson Lee "Kneeling in Defense of 1st Amendment", speech in the House of Representatives, September 25, 2017

Jackson Lee was born Sheila Jackson in Queens, New York. Her father, Ezra Clyde Jackson, who was born in Brooklyn, was a comic book artist and the son of Jamaican immigrants.[3] Her mother, Ivalita Bennett Jackson, was a nurse, and came to New York at an early age from her birthplace of St. Petersburg, Florida.[4]

Jackson Lee graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens. She earned a BA in political science from Yale University in 1972 and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1975.[5]

Jackson Lee moved to Houston when her husband, Elwyn Lee, accepted a position at the University of Houston. She made three unsuccessful attempts at local judgeships before becoming a Houston, Texas municipal judge from 1987 to 1990.[6] Along with Sylvia Garcia, Jackson Lee was appointed by then Mayor of Houston Kathy Whitmire.

In 1989, Jackson Lee won the at-large position for a seat on the Houston City Council, serving until 1994.[6] On the city council, she helped pass a safety ordinance that required parents to keep their guns away from children.[7] She also worked for expanded summer hours at city parks and recreation centers as a way to combat gang violence.[8]

U.S. House of Representatives

1994 run for office

In 1994, Jackson Lee challenged four-term incumbent U.S. Representative Craig Washington in the Democratic primary.[6] Washington had come under fire for opposing several projects that would have benefited the Houston area.[9] Jackson Lee defeated Washington, 63% to 37%.[10] The victory was tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. In the general election, she defeated Republican nominee Jerry Burley, 73%–24%.[11]

Tenure

Jackson Lee watches as Paul Ryan signs the First Step Act of 2018

Before the 110th Congress, Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and on the Subcommittee that oversees space policy and NASA.[12] She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus[13][14] and a CBC whip.[9]

On September 27, 2013, Jackson Lee introduced the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act (H.R. 3202; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the United States Department of Homeland Security to assess the effectiveness of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.[15] The bill would require an independent assessment of how well the TWIC program improves security and reduces risks at the facilities and vessels it is responsible for.[16]

In January 2019, The New York Times reported that Jackson Lee planned to resign as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The move came in the wake of a lawsuit filed by a former staffer earlier in January that claimed the staffer was fired in retaliation for her planned legal action related to an alleged rape by a supervisor in 2015. The resignation came the day after the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence announced it would not support making Jackson Lee the lead sponsor of a law to reauthorize the federal Violence Against Women Act.[17] She also stepped down from her chairmanship of the House Judiciary subcommittee.[18]

On January 4, 2021, Jackson Lee introduced the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act (H.R. 127; 117th Congress), a bill that expanded requirements for firearm licensing to every firearm and banned any ammunition of .50 caliber BMG or larger.[19]

In the 117th Congress (2021–2023), Jackson Lee voted with President Joe Biden's stated position 100 percent of the time, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis.[20] Jackson Lee and Representative Lloyd Doggett became co-deans of Texas's congressional delegation in January 2023 after the retirement of Eddie Bernice Johnson.

Staffing issues

In 1998, The Houston Press reported that five of Jackson Lee's staffers had quit that spring. The paper quoted Lee's former Capitol office executive assistant and events scheduler, Rhiannon Burruss, as saying that "the congresswoman's abrasive ways not only drove off staff members but irritated Continental Airlines staffers to the point where one suggested she fly on a competitor instead."[21][22]

In 2011, Jackson Lee was reported to have one of the highest staff turnover rates in Congress. The Huffington Post and the Houston Chronicle reported that she had gone through 11 chiefs of staff in the course of 11 years.[23][24] A 2013 report concluded that "the veteran Texas Democrat had the highest turnover rate for all of Congress over the [previous] decade."[25] Washingtonian magazine named Jackson Lee as the "meanest Democratic Congress member" in both 2014 and 2017.[26] In 2018, LegiStorm reported that Jackson Lee's annual turnover rate, at 62%, was the highest in Congress.[27]

In 2023, during her Houston mayoral run, an unverified[28] audio leaked of Jackson Lee berating her staffers with profanity. The recording was about a minute and half in length, where Jackson Lee allegedly tells a staffer she wants him to have a "fuckin' brain" and that "nobody knows a Goddamn thing in my office – nothing.” She then describes a different staffer as a "fat-ass stupid idiot" and that both of them are "fuck-ups" and that they are "two Goddamn big-ass children, fuckin’ idiots who serve no Goddamn purpose."[29][30] Her mayoral campaign refused to verify the authenticity of the recording and alleged that "these attacks have originated from extremely conservative blogs and political operatives backing John Whitmire."[a] Whitmire's campaign stated they had no involvement with the recording.[29] Jackson Lee responded to the release of the recording by saying, "I am regretful and hope you will judge me not by something trotted out by a political opponent... but from what I’ve delivered to Houstonians over my years of public service" and said that "everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and that includes my own staff."[30][28]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Jackson Lee is or has been a member of a number of caucuses, including:

2023 Houston mayoral run

On March 27, 2023, Jackson Lee announced her candidacy for the mayor of Houston in the 2023 election.[39] Jackson Lee garnered endorsements from notable political figures such as outgoing Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.[40] On November 7, 2023, Jackson Lee came in second place in the election, behind Democratic state senator John Whitmire. However, none of the 18 candidates who ran managed to surpass the required 50 percent threshold.

Jackson Lee and Whitmire advanced to a runoff election on December 9, 2023. Jackson Lee was ultimately defeated by Whitmire, who won with nearly 65 percent of the vote.[41][42] Following her loss, Jackson Lee filed for re-election to her U.S. House seat on December 11, 2023.[43][44]

Political views and statements

Foreign policy

In 2000, Jackson Lee favored permanently normalizing trade status for China, arguing that it would aid both human rights and Houston's economy.[45]

Jackson Lee traveled to the 2001 World Conference against Racism in South Africa, and has backed sanctions against Sudan.[46] On April 28, 2006, along with four other members of Congress and six other activists, she was arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Sudan's embassy in Washington. They were protesting the role of Sudan's government in ethnic cleansing in Darfur.[47]

Jackson Lee has urged better relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, which she describes as a friendly nation. She said the U.S. should reconsider its ban on selling F-16 fighter jets and spare parts to Venezuela. The U.S. State Department bans such sales due to "lack of support" for counter-terrorist operations and Venezuela's relations with Iran and Cuba.[48][49]

In May 2015, Jackson Lee took a trip to Azerbaijan paid for by the Azerbaijani government.[50][51]

Jackson Lee condemned President Erdoğan's wide-ranging crackdown on dissent following a failed July 2016 coup in Turkey.[52]

Domestic policy

Jackson Lee is active on immigration issues.[53] She has proposed increasing border security and increasing opportunities for legalization among those living in the U.S. She has opposed a guest worker program, saying that the idea "connotate[s] 'invite, come,' and, at the same time, it misleads because you ask people to come for a temporary job of three to six years and they have to leave if they don't have another job and I would think that they would not."[54]

In January 2011, Jackson Lee said that repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would violate the Constitution, arguing that the act is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that repealing it would violate both the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments.[55][56][57]

At a March 2011 Homeland Security Committee hearing on radical Muslims in the U.S., Jackson Lee said that Peter King's hearings were helping al-Qaeda and "going the same route as Arizona." She complained that the hearings were scaring Muslim Americans and called them "an outrage".[58]

LGBT rights

Jackson Lee voted present on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.[59] In 2009, she voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that expanded the federal hate crime law to cover crimes biased by the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity.[60] In 2010, she voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act that allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to serve openly in the U.S. military.[61]

In 2019, Jackson Lee voted for the Equality Act, which expanded the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.[62] Jackson Lee criticized Republican representatives who opposed the legislation on religious grounds.[63]

Racial issues

In 2003, Jackson Lee suggested changing the naming practices for tropical cyclones and hurricanes, saying that "all racial groups should be represented" and that meteorological organizations should "try to be inclusive of African American names."[64][65]

Speaking at the July 2010 NAACP national convention, Jackson Lee compared the Tea Party movement to the Ku Klux Klan, saying that "all those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off". Jackson Lee's remarks were criticized by conservatives, including Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann (R-MN).[66][67]

Presidential election objections

In 2001, Jackson Lee and other House members objected to counting Florida's electoral votes, which George W. Bush narrowly won after a contentious recount in the 2000 presidential election. Because no senator joined the objection, it was dismissed by Senate President Al Gore.[68]

In 2005, Jackson Lee was one of the 31 House Democrats who voted not to count Ohio's electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election.[69][70] Without Ohio's electoral votes, the election would have been decided by the U.S. House of Representatives, with each state having one vote in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

During the 2017 United States Electoral College vote count, Jackson Lee objected to counting North Carolina's, South Carolina's and Wyoming's electoral votes in the 2016 presidential election.[71] Because no senator joined her objections, they were dismissed.[72]

Gaffes

According to The Daily Beast, Jackson Lee has a "history of wild statements" and political gaffes.[73] These include incorrectly stating that the U.S. Constitution was 400 years old;[74] displaying a false version of the Confederate battle flag during a Congressional debate;[75] mistakenly criticizing Wikipedia instead of WikiLeaks;[76] incorrectly calling the Moon a "planet" that is made "mostly of gases";[77][78] and saying that North Vietnam and South Vietnam were still separate countries.[79][80]

The Hill reported that during a 1997 visit to the Mars Pathfinder operations center, Jackson Lee asked whether the Pathfinder rover had taken a picture of the U.S. flag planted by Neil Armstrong; the flag had been planted on the Moon, not Mars. Jackson Lee was at the time a member of the Aeronautics and Space Subcommittee of the House Science Committee.[81][82] In response, Jackson Lee’s deputy chief of staff accused the newspaper of racial bias without disputing the story's accuracy. The Hill denied the allegations and stood by its reporting.[82][83]

In July 2014, Jackson Lee said that "we did not seek an impeachment" of President George W. Bush. Jackson Lee was one of 11 co-sponsors of the 2008 U.S. House bill H. Res. 1258, which sought to impeach Bush for "deceiving Congress with fabricated threats of Iraq WMDs". Jackson Lee's spokesperson later said that she "misspoke".[84][85]

A campaign advertisement for Jackson Lee in the 2023 Houston mayoral election instructed viewers to vote on the wrong date. Jackson Lee's spokesperson attributed the error to an external advertising agency.[86]

Personal life

In 1973, Jackson Lee married Elwyn Lee, who has served as a law professor and vice president of student affairs at the University of Houston. The couple has two children.[5][12] Jackson Lee is a Seventh-day Adventist.[87] She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority[88] as well as The Links organization.[89]

Jackson Lee previously had breast cancer, but was declared cancer free in 2012. On June 2, 2024, Jackson Lee announced that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer[90] and is receiving treatments.[91]

Awards and recognition

Electoral history

Texas's 18th congressional district, 1994[93]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee 84,790 73.5
Republican Jerry Burley 28,153 24.4
Independent J. Larry Snellings 1,278 1.1
Libertarian George Hollenbeck 1,169 1.0
Total votes 115,390 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 1996[94]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 106,111 77.1
Republican Larry White 13,956 10.1
Republican Jerry Burley 7,877 5.7
Republican George Young 5,332 3.9
Democratic Mike Lamson 4,412 3.2
Total votes 137,688 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 1998[94]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 82,091 89.9
Libertarian James Galvan 9,176 10.1
Total votes 91,267 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2000[95]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 131,857 76.5
Republican James Galvan 38,191 22.2
Libertarian Colin Nankervis 2,330 1.4
Total votes 172,378 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2002[96]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 99,161 76.9
Republican Phillip Abbott 27,980 21.7
Libertarian Brent Sullivan 1,785 1.4
Total votes 128,926 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2004[97]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 136,018 88.9
Independent Tom Bazan 9,787 6.4
Libertarian Brent Sullivan 7,183 4.7
Total votes 152,988 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2006[98]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 65,936 76.6
Republican Ahmad Hassan 16,448 19.1
Libertarian Patrick Warren 3,667 4.3
Total votes 86,051 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2008[99]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 148,617 77.3
Republican John Faulk 39,095 20.3
Libertarian Mike Taylor 4,486 2.3
Total votes 192,198 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2010[100]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 85,108 70.2
Republican John Faulk 33,067 27.3
Libertarian Mike Taylor 3,118 2.6
Write-in Charles Meyer 28 0.0
Total votes 121,321 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2012[93]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 146,223 75.0
Republican Sean Seilbert 44,015 22.6
Libertarian Christopher Barber 4,694 2.4
Total votes 194,932 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2014[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 76,097 71.8
Republican Sean Seibert 26,249 24.8
Independent Vince Duncan 2,362 2.2
Green Remington Alessi 1,302 1.2
Total votes 106,010 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2016[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 150,157 73.5
Republican Sean Seibert 48,306 23.6
Green Remington Alessi 5,845 2.9
Total votes 204,308 100.0
Democratic hold
Democratic Primary for Texas's 18th congressional district, 2018[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 34,514 86.0
Democratic Vince Duncan 5,604 14.0
Total votes 40,118 100.0
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2018[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 138,704 75.2
Republican Ava Pate 38,368 20.8
Libertarian Luke Spencer 4,067 2.2
Independent Vince Duncan 3,193 1.7
Total votes 184,332 100.0
Democratic hold
Democratic Primary for Texas's 18th congressional district, 2020[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 49,729 77.1
Democratic Marc Flores 5,353 8.3
Democratic Bimal Patel 2,456 3.8
Democratic Jerry Ford Sr. 2,417 3.7
Democratic Stevens Orozco 2,180 3.4
Democratic Michael Allen 1,672 2.6
Democratic Donovan Boson 709 1.1
Total votes 64,516 100.0
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2020[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 180,952 73.3
Republican Wendell Champion 58,033 23.5
Libertarian Luke Spencer 4,514 1.8
Independent Vince Duncan 3,396 1.2
Total votes 246,895 100.0
Democratic hold
Texas's 18th congressional district, 2022[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent) 110,511 70.7
Republican Carmen Maria Montiel 40,941 26.2
Independent Vince Duncan 2,766 1.8
Libertarian Phil Kurtz 20,050 1.3
Total votes 156,268 100.0
Democratic hold
Houston Mayoral General Election, 2023[102]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan John Whitmire 107,410 42.5
Nonpartisan Sheila Jackson Lee 90,093 35.6
Nonpartisan Gilbert Garcia 18,220 7.2
Nonpartisan Jack Christie 17,364 6.9
Nonpartisan Lee Kaplan 6,645 2.6
Nonpartisan Robert Gallegos 2,679 1.1
Nonpartisan M.J. Khan 2,478 1.0
Nonpartisan Annie Garcia 1,979 0.8
Nonpartisan Julian Martinez 1,813 0.7
Nonpartisan Roy Vasquez 1,083 0.4
Nonpartisan M. Griffin 674 0.3
Nonpartisan Kathy Lee Tatum 532 0.2
Nonpartisan David Lowy 368 0.1
Nonpartisan Chanel Mbala 356 0.1
Nonpartisan Naoufal Houjami 352 0.1
Nonpartisan Gaylon Caldwell 331 0.1
Nonpartisan B. Ivy 287 0.1
Nonpartisan Robin Williams 95 0.0
Total votes 252,759 100.0
Houston Mayoral Runoff Election, 2023[103]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan John Whitmire 129,495 64.4
Nonpartisan Sheila Jackson Lee 71,523 35.6
Total votes 201,018 100.0

See also

Notes

  1. ^ John Whitmire is a Democratic state senator who was Jackson Lee's primary opponent in the mayoral election.

References

  1. ^ "Congressional Directory for the 116th Congress (2019–2020), July 2020. [Page 263]". GovInfo. July 22, 2020. Retrieved December 16, 2023.
  2. ^ Reimann, Nicholas (March 27, 2023). "Progressive Firebrand Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Running For Houston Mayor". Retrieved December 16, 2023.
  3. ^ Quattro, Ken (2020). Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. IDW Publishing. pp. 174–179. ISBN 9781684055869. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  4. ^ Turner, Allan (May 14, 2010). "Jackson Lee mother remembered as 'Renaissance woman'". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Sheila Jackson Lee: Biography". House.gov. Archived from the original on September 25, 2010. Retrieved September 14, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c FELDMAN, CLAUDIA (February 19, 1995). "SHEILA JACKSON LEE GOES TO WASHINGTON". Houston Chronicle. p. 6.
  7. ^ ROBINSON, JAMES (April 23, 1992). "Council moves to keep guns away from kids". Houston Chronicle. p. 1.
  8. ^ "FOR CONGRESS, DIST. 18/Recommending nomination of Sheila Jackson Lee". Houston Chronicle. February 13, 1994. p. 2.
  9. ^ a b Tim Fleck (February 20, 1997). "What's Driving Miss Shelia?". Houston Press. Archived from the original on August 9, 2011.
  10. ^ "TX District 18 – D Primary Race – Mar 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. n.d. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
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  13. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. n.d. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  14. ^ Wright, James (September 23, 1995). "Who's Who in the Congressional Black Caucus". Afro – American Red Star. Vol. 104, no. 6. Washington, D.C. p. B1.
  15. ^ "CBO – H.R. 3202". Congressional Budget Office. July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
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  24. ^ Molly Harbarger (June 20, 2011). "Cuellar sees heavy turnover in Washington staff". San Antonio Express-News.
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  28. ^ a b Lozano, Juan (October 24, 2023). "Houston mayoral candidate Jackson Lee regretful after recording of her allegedly berating staffers". AP News. Retrieved June 4, 2024.
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  30. ^ a b Svitek, Patrick (October 24, 2023). "Sheila Jackson Lee expresses regret after audio leaks of her berating, demeaning staffers". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved June 4, 2024.
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  45. ^ "Small firms to get help in exporting". Houston Chronicle. October 7, 2000. p. 2.
  46. ^ LEVINE, SAMANTHA (April 30, 2006). "DELEGATION WATCH / Jackson Lee backs her vow on Darfur / Calls her arrest a statement on the war and genocide". Houston Chronicle. p. 10.
  47. ^ Jim Doyle, Five members of Congress arrested over Sudan protest, San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2006.
  48. ^ "Jackson Lee wants ban on fighter jets reconsidered". Archived from the original on February 25, 2007. Retrieved February 22, 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Houston Chronicle. February 21, 2007
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  58. ^ Oliphant, James (March 11, 2011). "Muslim 'radicalization' hearing a success, say Rep. Peter King, Republicans". Los Angeles Times.
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