HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Some conservatives are launching a full-on attack against U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. They're criticizing a bill that the Houston Democrat filed targeting hate crimes inspired by white supremacy. Several far-right figures called it a violation of free speech.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee said her bill is intended to prevent and prosecute people who commit hate crimes like the deadly attacks in Charlottesville and Buffalo recently. However, conservatives are latching onto a part about conspiracy. They said the bill, as written, opens the door to criminal penalties for anyone who puts out material vilifying people who aren't white.
"I invite Congresswoman (Lauren) Boebert to read the bill. I invite her to get someone to help her read the bill," Jackson Lee said.
The controversy over the Leading Against White Supremacy Act started simmering Sunday night when Boebert, a Colorado Republican, called it a mockery of the First Amendment on Twitter. Since then, the attacks from conservatives have only gotten louder.
"Sheila Jackson Lee has devoted her entire political career - indeed her entire life - to a single cause: Shrieking about white racism," Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson said on Tuesday.
He and others on the far right take issue with Congresswoman Jackson Lee's legislative advocacy against racism and what they call an attempt to criminalize speech.
"I'm comfortable that this bill is needed," Jackson Lee said. "I'm also comfortable that it's in compliance with the law. It's not too broad, and it does not cover speech at all."
Looking at the text, the bill would expand the federal scope of hate crimes to include acts inspired by white supremacy. It would also penalize a person who "published material advancing white supremacy with the likelihood that it would be viewed by persons who are predisposed to engaging in any action in furtherance of a white supremacy inspired hate crime."
When asked about that part, the congresswoman cited recent instances of racist pamphlets distributed in Houston neighborhoods.
"Those pamphlets have been called free speech. But if someone is ultimately harmed or loses their life, there will be a federal law that will hold that person additionally criminally liable in addition to the violent action they may have taken. I think that is appropriate. I think that is right," Jackson Lee said.
The Anti-Defamation League tracks deadly extremism in the United States. Their data shows right-wing extremists are responsible for most of these murders. Between 2012 and 2021, more than three out of four killings committed by right-wing extremists were committed by white supremacists.
"It's a separate component because it has been defined in data that it is a real problem in America," Jackson Lee said.
It's also a real problem that will take bipartisanship to solve.
"There's going to be partisan friction. That's understandable," Dr. Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said. "There's going to be members who don't like each other. That's understandable. Getting into beef on social media is just par for the course nowadays."
Despite the criticism, the congresswoman said she will continue fighting against hate crimes and for the bill.