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Thousands of peaceful protesters gathered on May 29 in Houston to mourn the death of George Floyd. Photo: Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images

As thousands around the country protested the police killing of George Floyd, a conservative Texas powerbroker and activist asked Gov. Greg Abbott in early June to instruct the National Guard to "shoot to kill" rioters, The Texas Tribune first reported yesterday.

What he's saying...Steve Hotze left this voicemail for Abbott's chief of staff and asked him to pass it on to the governor: "I want to make sure that [Gov. Abbott] has National Guard down here and they have the order to shoot to kill if any of these son-of-a-b---h people start rioting like they have in Dallas, start tearing down businesses — shoot to kill the son of a b------s. That’s the only way you restore order. Kill ‘em. Thank you."

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted Saturday that Hotze's comments are "absolutely disgusting and reprehensible."
  • The Texas Tribune acquired the voicemail on Friday through a public information request.
  • Hotze did not respond Saturday to Axios' request for comment.

Context: Hotze left the voicemail on the weekend of June 6 — several days after Abbott called on the National Gaurd to curtail protests that turned violent.

  • Hotze is "one of the most prolific cultures warriors on the right in Texas," the Tribune writes.
  • He has openly criticized Abbott's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Hotze has challenged Abbott's emergency orders in court, including a lawsuit against the recent statewide mask mandate.

The big picture: Law enforcement's response to the protests was criticized after thousands around the country poured into the streets to demonstrate against police brutality. Some of the starkest criticism came after military police and park rangers used physical force to clear a path for President Trump to cross Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.

Editor's note: Updates with additional details, context.

Go deeper

FDA authorizes Abbott's $5 rapid COVID-19 test

Results from the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test will be available in roughly 15 minutes. Photo: Courtesy of Abbott Laboratories.

Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday it received emergency use authorization (EAU) from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 test that works without lab equipment.

The big picture: Abbott said it will ramp up production of its "highly portable," $5 tests to 50 million by the beginning of October.

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45 mins ago - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.