- Facebook Live screenshot via KENS5
- Thomas J. Henry, looking out for the little guy
On Tuesday, Thomas J. Henry, the personal injury lawyer seen gazing stoically from billboards across San Antonio, held a press conference on the steps of the Bexar County Courthouse — a move usually reserved for elected county officials, not the head of a private law firm.
In a statement sent to TV outlets, Henry said he would "unveil his actions against those responsible for the tragic Sutherland Springs shooting." Naturally, reporters hustled over to catch what could be breaking news on the national story.
"On behalf of myself, my law firm, and my family — we send our deepest condolences to the families that lost their loved ones and had their families injured at the baptist church on November 5," he told the group of reporters.
"I have received some inquiries into my firm and I stand here before you to be part of an effort to be sure this kind of tragedy doesn't occur again in our country," he continued. Henry reminded reporters that Devin Kelley, the Sutherland Springs gunman who left 26 churchgoers dead, had been able to purchase a weapon because the Air Force had neglected to enter his criminal history into a federal database.
"We are here today to ensure that our legislators, our government ... can ensure that ... the database is fully updated so we can prevent people from obtaining firearms and being put in this position again," he concluded. "Thank you."
It took less than 2 minutes for Henry to tell reporters (and the hundreds watching on various Facebook live streams online) ... something. But no one was really sure what.
When asked by reporters, Henry said he hadn't filed any lawsuits related to Sutherland Springs and he couldn't comment on whether or not any of the victim's families have reached out to him. He also had little information of how his private personal injury firm would ensure the government changed its ways.
"So ... what's happening today?" a reporter asked Henry.
"My statement here today is that we've received some inquiries," he replied.
In short, Henry had called the media over to live-stream an advertisement for his firm's work, clumsily shrouded as a call for government reform. It's a remarkably blunt move from a guy who definitely has the kind of money to pay for his own ad.
Aside from being "that guy on a billboard" (who isn't the other guy on a billboard), Henry has built a reputation in San Antonio for having a shitload of money.
He rolled into San Antonio from Corpus Christi around 2014, just in time to dump a staggering $1.2 million into Nico LaHood's district attorney campaign. Henry argued that his altruistic check was for the children LaHood promised to defend as DA, not to secure future referrals to his firm from LaHood's office. Two years later, Henry spent $6 million on a quinceañera for his daughter that featured performances from Pitbull and Nick Jonas because reasons.
But what's worse than Henry stealing free airtime to advertise his firm, is that his marketing stunt takes clear advantage of an incredibly fresh tragedy. Henry drew in busy local reporters (and their online audiences) on the false assumption he had some actual news to share. Instead, he told the cameras that grieving family members could come to him to sue the government over their loved one's untimely death. That he cares more than the other lawyers because he held a "press conference" and called out the government with empty threats. There was no mention of pro-bono work.
However, for a moment at the end of his presser, Henry tiptoed toward a tone of humility.
"It really shouldn't require a lawyer to get involved," he said, referring to the victim's legal woes. "The government on their own should be stepping up and being responsible."
"If the government doesn't step up, will you get involved?" a reporter asked.
Henry's quick reply: "Absolutely I would be involved."