“I was just like, I want to get a picture with Dan Patrick,” Brock said in an interview.
Patrick eventually came by and told him how much he liked the painting, Brock said.
“I told him, I want you to run for 2020,” Brock said.
According to video of the event published by the Young Turks YouTube channel, Patrick did seem pleased with the gift. He stood holding it as another speaker introduced him — and then brought it onto the stage when he went up to speak. Caleb stood a few paces away.
“I walk in the door, and Caleb, delightful fellow, just met him tonight,” Patrick said. “He traveled an hour here, and he brought me a painting, he did. And so I want to show you this, it’s pretty cool.”
Patrick turned the painting around to show it to the audience. It is a messy mix of colors and words; “Dan 2020,” it says on one side, along with “principled” and “conservative leadership” elsewhere.
“This is all of the things, like conservative, principled conservative, it’s kind of abstract,” Patrick said, making a joke about running for president of his homeowner’s association. Patrick said he planned to bring the painting in the plane back home.
But the painting was embedded with two hidden messages: “Abolish ICE,” and “Impeach Trump,” two rallying cries for the far left, were written across its top, visible but hazy, and written backward and thus legible clearly only in a mirror. ICE refers to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The lieutenant governor had been duped. Brock is not a Patrick fan.
Political pranks — satire brought to life — are a time-honed tradition in the emotional world of politics, made famous by groups such as the Yes Men and others. Richard Tuck, a longtime Democratic strategist and trickster, was famous for many of these stunts, perhaps foremost among them booking Richard M. Nixon during Nixon’s Senate campaign in 1950 to an empty auditorium. Groups such as the Yippies, a counterculture consortium of pranksters, made waves in the 1960s — for pranks like when they rained small-denomination bills onto the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange, brokers making a mad dash to pick them up in what made for an effective portrait of greed. In the late 1990s and 2000s, the Yes Men targeted corporations such as Dow Chemical and Halliburton.
But pranks, which can quickly bleed into the world of hoaxes, misinformation campaigns and other less-savory and underhanded political tricks, have seemed to occupy a less prominent space in recent years as the intensity and nastiness of the political sphere has ramped up.
It is not clear when Patrick found out about the prank, but the ruse was exposed when the Young Turks wrote about it Wednesday.
Patrick took the trickery in stride.
“I meet lots of young people in my travels around the state, and I always try to engage with them when I can,” he said in a statement. “This young man’s very elaborate prank — painting all the letters backward in abstract so it couldn’t be read until it was flipped in a photograph — and giving it to me as I walked in the door of a speech was certainly clever — but if that’s the worst that happens on the trail, it has to make you laugh.”
Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant tea party, which hosted the event, said “of course this guy had to sneak and manipulate his way onto the stage."
“Nobody would willingly give up time and attention for his nonsense,” she wrote in an email.
Brock said in an interview that he was not a student of political pranks; he just didn’t think the logistics of the event would have allowed him to confront Patrick in another way.
“This was one of the first ideas that came to me,” he said. “I wanted to start a conversation on the topic of the cruel immigration policies we have in this country right now.”
Patrick was chosen solely because of his prominence in the state’s powerful Republican constellation — and the fact that he was appearing in the Fort Worth suburb of North Richland Hills, about 30 miles south of Brock’s home in Denton.
Brock said he does not know what happened to his painting.
The high schooler will be a freshman next year at the University of Texas, where he hopes to begin a course of study that will lead to a career as an immigration lawyer. He particularly likes the refugee and immigrant advocacy organization RAICES. He said looks forward to voting after he turns 18 in May.
“We have an older generation that is viewing youth and dismissing our voices a little bit. They’re saying ‘They’re too young to really know what’s going on,’ ” he said. “No, we’re living in this world, and we can all see the atrocities being committed by ICE and this administration.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated the original publisher of the video. It was first published by the Young Turks on YouTube. Editor’s note: We also called the Young Turks a “lefty blog,” and that wasn’t very nice. What is a “blog” anymore? I’m not really sure.