Fact Check

US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Said Moon Is Planet and Made Up of 'Gases'?

The Texas representative spoke at Houston's Booker T. Washington High School in advance of the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse.

Published April 10, 2024

 (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Wikimedia Commons)
Image courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Wikimedia Commons
Texas U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee referred to the moon as a planet and said, “A full moon is that complete, rounded circle which is made up mostly of gases, and that’s why the question is why or how could we as humans live on the moon?”

Lee's statements about the moon were incorrect. After the gaffe, she posted on X that she “misspoke” and “meant to say the sun” when referring to gases.

On April 8, 2024, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, spoke at Booker T. Washington High School ahead of the solar eclipse happening later that day, and made a number of incorrect statements about the moon, sun and planets. 

Various X accounts, including the official @RNCResearch account managed by the Republican National Committee, shared clips of her speech in which she appeared to say: "A full moon is that complete, rounded circle which is made up mostly of gases, and that's why the question is why or how could we as humans live on the moon? Are the gases such that we could do that?"

She also can be heard calling the moon a planet: "We have yet to know whether you can live on the moon. But I don't know about you, I want to be first in line to know how to live and to be able to survive on the moon — that's another planet which we're going to see shortly."

Lee did indeed make the erroneous statements quoted above, as evidenced by footage from a livestream of the event shared on her own official X account. However, after the eclipse, she posted that she had misspoken and intended to say the sun is made up of gases. 

Jackson Lee later admitted to the gas gaffe in a post on X, saying she misspoke, and criticized Republicans for focusing on her statement rather than more important issues: "Obviously I misspoke and meant to say the sun, but as usual, Republicans are focused on stupid things instead of stuff that really matters. What can I say though, foolish thinkers lust for stupidity!"

She added that in her view, Republicans "should be focusing on issues like prenatal care, building more affordable housing, and more reduction of student loan debt as President Joe Biden is." 

The Moon Is Neither a Planet Nor Made up of Gases

The moon is not a planet, but a naturally formed satellite that orbits Earth. Per NASA's tally, 293 moons orbit the planets in our solar system: one moon for Earth; two for Mars; 95 for Jupiter; 146 for Saturn; 28 for Uranus; 16 for Neptune; and five for "dwarf planet" Pluto.

Also, the moon is not made up mostly of gases. It is a solid body with a core, mantle, and crust, according to NASA

The Moon's core is proportionally smaller than other terrestrial bodies' cores. The solid, iron-rich inner core is 149 miles (240 kilometers) in radius. It is surrounded by a liquid iron shell 56 miles (90 kilometers) thick. A partially molten layer with a thickness of 93 miles (150 kilometers) surrounds the iron core.

The mantle extends from the top of the partially molten layer to the bottom of the Moon's crust. It is most likely made of minerals like olivine and pyroxene, which are made up of magnesium, iron, silicon, and oxygen atoms.

The crust has a thickness of about 43 miles (70 kilometers) on the Moon's near-side hemisphere and 93 miles (150 kilometers) on the far-side. It is made of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminum, with small amounts of titanium, uranium, thorium, potassium, and hydrogen.

The sun, on the other hand, is a hot ball of glowing gases categorized by astronomers as a yellow dwarf star.


"Moon Facts." NASA, https://science.nasa.gov/moon/facts/. Accessed 10 April 2024.

"Moons." NASA, https://science.nasa.gov/solar-system/moons/. Accessed 10 April 2024.

"Sun." NASA, https://science.nasa.gov/sun/. Accessed 10 April 2024.

Wehner, Greg. "Spaced out: Sheila Jackson Lee Tells Texas Students 'planet' Moon Is 'Made up of Mostly of Gases.'" Fox News, 9 Apr. 2024, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/spaced-out-sheila-jackson-lee-tells-texas-students-planet-moon-made-up-gases. Accessed 10 April 2024.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

Article Tags