Top Texas Prosecutor Very Sorry He Called Simone Biles a ‘National Embarrassment’

Biles, who is Texan, has been hailed as a role model for putting her mental health first.
July 29, 2021, 2:50pm
USA's Simone Biles waits for the final results of the artistic gymnastics women's team final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Loic VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)​
USA's Simone Biles waits for the final results of the artistic gymnastics women's team final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Loic VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

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A deputy attorney general from Simone Biles’ home state of Texas is apologizing after calling the Olympic gymnast a “selfish, childish, national embarrassment” in response to her pulling out of the team final in Tokyo earlier this week—a comment that earned him a public rebuke from his boss. 

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Texas Deputy Attorney General of Legal Strategy Aaron Reitz made the comment in a now-deleted tweet posted Wednesday, in response to a video published by a conservative publisher comparing Biles with former U.S. Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug.

After an awkward landing during the team all-around final earlier this week, Biles withdrew from the competition and said she wasn’t “in the right headspace” to continue. She’s also withdrawn from Thursday’s individual all-around final, and it’s so far unclear whether she’ll take part next week in the four individual event finals she qualified for. 

Biles has received praise for starting a dialogue about mental health and the pressure on athletes, as well as understanding and listening to her own body. Though some conservatives have joined in on the criticism of Biles, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—Reitz’s boss—tweeted that Reitz’s comment was “very inappropriate and insensitive” and that the matter “would be handled internally.” (Paxton’s office did not immediately return a call from VICE News Thursday morning.) 

“I know Simone Biles—she is a fantastic athlete but an even better person,” said Paxton, who is best known for trying and failing to get the election overturned and Obamacare thrown out on a technicality. “Mental health is far more important than any athletic competition and I fully support her decision.”

Before the end of the day, Reitz had apologized. “In a moment of frustration and disappointment, I opined on subjects for which I am not adequately versed. That was an error,” Reitz tweeted, adding that Biles was a “true patriot and one of the greatest gymnasts of our time.”

Despite the outcry from the perpetually aggrieved wing of the Republican Party, Biles has received overwhelming support following her decision to bow out, including from Strug herself and other athletes.

“The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” Biles tweeted Wednesday.