‘The Rundown’: Burgess Owens tangles with Democrats over race and the role of fathers

Utah Republican claims too many Black fathers abandon their children. He urged single women to “raise your standards” and “find good men” to take care of their kids.

"The Rundown" logo

Good morning Utah and TGIF! Thanks for reading “The Rundown”.

📬 I love hearing from you! Your story suggestions, news tips, and your feedback on this newsletter are fantastic. Keep it coming! Send me an email or find me on Twitter @SchottHappens.

Get this newsletter delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. Sign up for free here.

Owens tangles with Democrats over race and the role of fathers

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee markup for a bill to legalize marijuana was derailed by a spat between Utah Rep. Burgess Owens and Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee over the role of fathers in the Black community.

The bill from New York Democrat Jerry Nadler aims to decriminalize cannabis and implement a federal tax on marijuana products. Those funds would go toward grants to low-income and minority communities that have been most impacted by the nation’s war on drugs.

Owens objected to the notion that Black communities needed extra help from the government. Instead, he lamented the state of the family in those communities, saying the solution is getting men to embrace the duties of fatherhood.

“Put men back in the head of their families where they can be proud of who they are. We don’t need the government to do it,” Owens said.

Owens leaned into the “absent Black fathers” argument saying “70 to 80 percent of black fathers desert their families.”

Those numbers are misleading at best, according to Vox.com. About 60 percent of Black fathers live with their children. Those who do live with their kids are more likely than their white counterparts to be involved in their children’s lives.

Owens also suggested women were not blameless in the disintegration of the family.

“Our problem is a lack of good men. It’s time for us to change it. All the good men out there, keep it up. And all the single ladies out there trying to make it, raise your standards. Let’s find good men so they can take care of your kids,” Owens said.

Owens’ argument set off a hail of objections from Democrats.

“I really, really find the comments you made about black fathers not being in the homes in communities of color, I find that very insulting,” Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath said.

“When I sit here as the daughter of a janitor, a Black man from the south who went to work seven days a week to make ends meet for his family. As I sit here as the sister of three Black men, Mr. Owens, who provided for their family. I’m married to a Black man who provides for his family. The gentleman’s statements were insulting to every Black man who does provide. To suggest that Black men are the only people who don’t take care of their families is an all-time low,” Florida Democrat Val Demmings said.

The harshest comments for Owens came from Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, who said he was reinforcing racial stereotypes.

“You don’t seem to understand the platform from which you speak. Your words are now going to spread across America. You just don’t realize the impact, and then you play to your colleagues who believe that we are unequal already,” Jackson Lee said.

At least four times during the debate, Owens complained that men were turning into “whiners, weenies and wimps,” which refers to his book of the same name.

Perhaps the most fitting comment about the dustup came from Texas Democrat Sylvia Garcia.

“I’m not sure what this is about and what it has to do with this bill,” she said.

The bill advanced to the House floor on a 26-15 vote, with Owens voting against.

Here’s what you need to know for Friday morning

🚨 President Joe Biden signed a short-term funding bill to fund the government until December 3. [WaPo]

🏛 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed a planned vote on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill as Democrats struggle to find enough votes to pass the measure in the House. [Politico]

🦠 Merck will apply for emergency authorization for its experimental anti-COVID pill. The manufacturer says the medication reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by half. [NYT]

💉 Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday he would block Utah lawmakers’ attempts to prevent private businesses from implementing vaccine mandates for their employees. At the same time, he is opposed to government mandates. [Tribune]

  • Cox also announced financial incentives for some public employees who get vaccinated. [Tribune]

🤔 Rep. Burgess Owens’ legally required financial disclosure contained several errors, including income that would violate House rules. Owens’ office says they were errors, but Democrats say it shows a pattern of sloppiness. [Tribune]

🏛 The Herriman City Council voted to absorb the controversial Olympia Hills development into the city. Now, the high-density housing development does not contain any requirements for affordable housing. [Tribune]

💉 A lawsuit seeks to block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal employees. Plaintiffs include four Air Force officers and a Secret Service agent. [WaPo]

⚖️ The Biden administration will ask a federal judge Friday to block a Texas abortion law that some say is the nation’s most restrictive. [AP]

⚽️ This story is jaw-dropping. Two professional women’s soccer players detailed years of harassment and abuse, often at the hands of male coaches. One coach, Paul Riley, was fired by the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage following publication. [The Athletic]

Utah Politics podcast

Utah Politics with Bryan Schott

My guest this week is Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan.

We discuss his new book “GOP 2.0,” in which he lays out a roadmap for the Republican Party post-Trump.

Plus, he talks about the aftermath of the 2020 election. He got threats of violence from fellow Republicans when he recognized Joe Biden as the legitimate winner over Donald Trump.

Give it a listen here.

Friday morning’s Utah news roundup


  • As Utah begins to uncover its Indigenous school history, survivors use Orange Shirt Day to remember. [Tribune]

  • ‘Y’ Mountain lit up in rainbow colors ahead of LGBTQ+ history month. [FOX13]

  • Ute Tribe enters agreement for historic preservation of tribal lands. [FOX13]


  • 12 more Utahns die of COVID-19. [Tribune]

  • Need a COVID-19 test? Utah trying to make it easier, reduce wait times. [Deseret News]


  • Ballpark area businesses want solutions for homeless problem. [KUTV]


  • Why Mitt Romney, GOP colleagues say Democrats’ ‘human infrastructure’ bill would deter marriage. [Deseret News]

Local Government

  • Utah’s governor says he is reevaluating his stance on the death penalty. [FOX13]

  • Richey brings community knowledge to city council race. [Standard Examiner]


  • New water conservation policies coming as Utah’s drought situation improves slightly. [FOX13]

  • Park City celebrates rehabilitation of mining-era tunnel, a crucial water supply. [Park Record]


  • Grand Co. School District to rely on medical data in decision to renew student mask mandate. [FOX13]

  • SUU receives federal grant to fuel tech development. [FOX13]

  • BYU researchers make micro lab-on-a-chip breakthrough. [Daily Herald]

On the Opinion Pages

  • Scott Beckstead: Don’t believe BLM’s gaslighting about the Onaqui herd of wild horses. [Tribune]

  • Genevra Prothero: Davis County schools are wrong to ban LGBTQ pride flags. [Tribune]

  • Brian Moench: A toxic selfishness is eating at the foundation of our country. [Tribune]

Sample HTML block

🎂 You say it’s your birthday?!!

Happy birthday on Friday to former Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Bill Keshlear, communications specialist for the University of Utah College of Health.

Sunday’s birthdays include former KSL NewsRadio host Doug Wright and Rich Piatt, director of communication at the Utah Attorney General’s office.

Got a birthday you’d like us to recognize in this space? Send us an email.

— The Tribune’s Connor Sanders contributed to this report.