Above Stephen Broden's desk at his campaign headquarters in Desoto, TX hangs a painting of a child covered in an American flag. "Have you thought about freedom lately?" the picture asks. Considering the recent controversy surrounding Broden, one could say the answer for him is undoubtedly "yes."
Broden is the Dallas-area politician and pastor who was quoted by local media as saying that violent revolution is an option that is "on the table," especially if he and fellow Republicans lose in November. But those comments, he says in an exclusive interview with The Blaze, have been starved of their full context, causing a national backlash that has been painfully echoed by some of his friends.
The controversy started on Thursday when WFAA-TV interviewed the U.S. House candidate in Texas's 30th district about some past comments. Those remarks included a statement in 2009 regarding the way to go about changing inadequate leaders: "We have a constitutional remedy here, and the framers said if that don't work -- revolution."
WFAA's Brad Watson asked Broden if he stood by the remarks, and reported Broden's response as follows:
Broden said Thursday that revolution, in his view, first comes at the ballot box. But he said violent overthrow is an option.
"Our nation was founded on violence; the option is on the table," he said. "I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms."
Cue all hell breaking loose. Worlds colliding. Jaws dropping. Arms flailing. Cue Stephen Broden wondering how what he thought he made so clear could be portrayed so poorly.
Broden doesn't deny he talked about revolution on Thursday. He doesn't deny he said overthrowing the government is "on the table." He did, and he still believes it. But he does deny that he said such an option should be considered now, at this time, or in the near future.
What hasn't been reported are the words he said in addition to the ones that have now become infamous. Words that make it clear he's not advocating an imminent government overthrow or an epic November loser's party that would end in a power struggle.
Words such as "crazy," "absurd," and "outside the scope of reason and logic" to describe the idea that he is calling for such a thing if he loses. Words such as revolution is only an option "under the worst of circumstances," is a "last resort," and "we are not at that point."
“I think the Declaration of Independence spells out what those circumstances are very clearly," Broden says in a deep, velvet voice. "That it is when abuse takes place for an extended period … or if there is a despot who is exercising or running roughshod over our liberties and our freedoms and extracting them from us, then we have a right to go beyond just the ballot box -- we can go to resistance.”
Multiple times, and in different ways, he says we are not there: "I have never said that we are at the point of having a despot, or having a tyrannical individual who is terminating our rights by terminating our Constitution."
Rather, what the country is experiencing now is what the Declaration of Independence calls "light and transient causes." And those, Broden says, are dealt with "through the ballot box."
"I repeated that over and over again," Broden says regarding his interview with Watson and WFAA, "absolutely I made it clear. But through his editing you will never see that I said that. You will never see that I said to him 'we are not at that point;' that is not the option that we exercise at the front end of what [the Founders] call 'light and transient causes.' ... You exercise your right at the ballot box."
Joining the young child as sentries on his wall are the Bush family and an American eagle, watching over him as he makes his case: "I made that clear to Brad [Watson]. But that doesn't make for exciting television. What makes for exciting television is that Broden says that violence is on the table."
Broden seems anything but violent. He is well spoken and passionate but gentle. He's also well versed in the founding documents, and quotes from them frequently when explaining his position.
Despite the recent controversy, that position still includes the option of government overthrow. "It is on the table because the founding fathers put it on the table," he says, and refers to the Declaration of Independence's statement that the people have the right to "alter," "abolish," or "throw off" oppressive government. Still, he is quick and careful to quote the document's caveat: abolishment and overthrow can only ever be considered after a "long train of abuses."
Still, "If you remove it from the table what other options do we have if in fact we encounter a tyrannical move from an individual or group of people who would rob us of our liberties?"
Throughout the interview, his molasses voice never cracks -- as if James Earl Jones had joined you for coffee and broke into frequent, yet relevant, recitations of the Declaration.
Even when talking about how the situation has made him question some of his friendships, he remains calm.
"Some of my friends took at face value what was said about me as opposed to saying, 'I know him, I will investigate this first before I make any statements about it," he says amid the books and printed blog posts on his desk. He calls it "surprising" but refuses to name anyone in particular: "I was thrown under the bus and everyone backed up." He acknowledges later he has heard what Glenn Beck -- who has hosted Broden on TV and at events in the past and questioned the pastor's comments but also their context -- has to say, but only second-hand.
According to Broden, he made his overthrow distinction clear to Watson and the Dallas Morning News, which originally endorsed him but withdrew that endorsement Friday. In its un-endorsement, the Morning News said that Broden had "back-tracked" but that the paper couldn't support him because it questioned his judgment.
"I answered all of their questions as honestly as I could," Broden says regarding a follow-up meeting with the Morning News's editorial board on Friday. "I don't know how they received that, [but] it sounds like they didn't receive it well at all."
Later he suggests that his answers to Watson and the Morning News didn't fit into their version of politically correct, and for that he was villainized. Yet he has no regrets: "I'm sorry I'm not politically correct here. I think I'm constitutionally correct and I'm correct as it relates to the principles that are outlaid in the Declaration of Independence."
According to Broden, neither Brad Watson nor WFAA have reached out to him, but he also has not attempted to contact them. That may be because he is upset about the way the interview was conducted. He paints a picture of the interview as more of set-up or ambush (my words, not his) rather than a meeting. He says he was originally given the impression that he was attending a meeting about his stances on Social Security and entitlement reform. But when he walked into the interview room Watson greeted him with a TV monitor, and then began showing Broden former speeches and issuing "rapid-fire" questions in a combative way.
"It was kind of a contentious conversation with him talking over me," he says. "I thought he took sort of a Sam Donaldson approach to questioning me," referring to the longtime ABC news anchor known for his combative tone.
Watson still hasn't responded to The Blaze's requests for comment.
Broden is now trying to put the controversy behind him and focus on the campaign. He likes his chances of beating longtime incumbent Eddie Bernice Johnson. While he says it would be an "upset," he believes his campaign has been riding a wave of momentum.
"People have had it," he says of his district's attitude toward Johnson, who has represented the district for 18 years. Perhaps surprisingly, she's not attacked his revolution comments.
Broden thinks he's been successful conveying his message of a better business environment and better education to his potential constituents. And he's hoping revolution at the ballot box starts in Texas's 30th district.
If the outpouring of support he's received from the public since Thursday is any indication, he may be right.
"I've gotten calls from all over the country and here locally as well," he says. "People have been very, very encouraging and supporting." Support has especially poured in from those who have "read the Declaration."
"I am just encouraged by how the public has responded," he explains, carefully enunciating every word. Yet the excitement over support from strangers is quickly overshadowed by a thought that seems to haunt him: "but, again, my friends haven't said very much."
As if to change the subject, the American flag-wrapped child looks on: "Have you thought about freedom lately?"