HOUSTON - Mayor Sylvester Turner is calling for a criminal investigation of mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee, saying he broke the law in an ad he released last week. Turner claims Buzbee violated Texas' new "deep fake video" law when he realized his video ad criticizing the mayor over his highly paid airport intern.
The mayor was not available for an interview, but said in a statement:
"The District Attorney should open a criminal investigation immediately."
Buzbee is unfazed by Turner's call for a criminal investigation.
"It's just pure silliness. I mean, the whole thing is foolish," he said.
The Turner campaign says the ad is illegal due to the iMessage screenshot and the photo of Mayor Turner and Marvin Agumagu.
"For one thing it purports to show a phone with a text message allegedly from Mr. Agumagu to the mayor, and our forensic experts said very likely it's just an artistic rendering, but they're presenting it as: This is the mayor. This is the text message from this young man, which they obviously don't have," said Sue Davis, a Turner campaign spokesperson.
According to the law, a "deep fake video means a video, created with the intent to deceive, that appears to depict a real person performing an action that did not occur in reality. A person commits an offense if the person, with intent to injure a candidate or influence the result of an election: creates a deep fake video, and causes the deep fake video to be published or distributed within 30 days of an election."
Tony Buzbee confirms the screenshot with the airport intern's name and photo at the top is an artistic rendering.
"Well, it doesn't show the text message. It' just demonstrates that there was a text message," Buzbee said.
"So you created that graphic?" we asked.
"Well I didn't, but the ad people just to demonstrate there is a text, and there is a text," he said.
Buzbee says the mayor's cell phone records show the mayor texted Agumagu at 10:59 p.m. on a Sunday in January 2018. This was before the internship was created in a hiring freeze when the mayor said the city couldn't afford to give firefighters a raise.
"They were exchanging texts late at night. Why?" Buzbee asked.
The Turner campaign spokesperson shows a side by side of an original photo with the mayor and the intern, as well as what appears to be an altered photo of the mayor that appears in the ad.
"He's taken his nose and widened it at the bridge and widened it here. He's doctored a photo," Davis said.
"'They made my nose bigger.' Are you kidding me? We know what he looks like. Nobody altered his image. We know what he looks like. Answer the question. Release your texts, and then we will all know what 's going on," Buzbee responded.
Buzbee tells FOX 26 he welcomes an investigation of his ad. Meanwhile, he's asked that the governor and attorney general investigate the mayor for his relationship with the intern.