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

Updated Jul 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The major police reforms enacted since George Floyd's death

Federal officers in Portland, Oregon on July 21. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Nationwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by George Floyd's killing have put new pressure on states and cities to scale back the force that officers can use on civilians.

Why it matters: Police reforms of this scale have not taken place since the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, following George Zimmerman's acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager.

Why you should be skeptical of Russia's coronavirus vaccine claims

Photo: Alexey Druzhini/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that his country has registered a coronavirus vaccine and said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated, AP reports.

Why it matters: Scientists around the world are skeptical about Russia's claims. There is no published scientific data to back up Putin's claims that Russia has a viable vaccine — or that it produces any sort of immunity without significant side effects.

A quandary for state unemployment agencies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State agencies charged with paying unemployment benefits to jobless residents have their backs against the wall as they rush to parse President Trump's executive actions on coronavirus aid.

Why it matters: States are being asked to pitch in $100 per unemployed resident, but it’s a heavy lift for cash-strapped states that are still unclear about the details and may not opt-in at all. It leaves the states and jobless residents in a state of limbo.