Having just spent the better part of four months in the company of the ever-diligent press corps covering the state Capitol in Nashville, I am unsurprised at their effectiveness in turning up truly sensational news about some of the principal figures in state government.
Most recent have been revelations, in the immediate wake of the late 2019 legislative session, concerning Cade Cothren, chief of staff to the Republican Speaker of the House, Glen Casada of Franklin, an elite suburb of Nashville. Actually, Cothren is now the former chief of staff, having been forced to resign after successively (1) being accused of altering an email date with the aim of putting a civil rights activist in jeopardy of the law for violating a judicial ban on contact with the Speaker; (2) having to admit that he used cocaine in an office of the legislature; (3) being exposed as a horndog and serial sexual harasser of interns and other young women.
- Glen Casada
Casada himself — and we're talking about the most powerful single individual on Capitol Hill these days — may well be in jeopardy, since the news regarding Cothren's sexual marauding included samples of emails in which the Speaker and his young assistant exchanged sexist remarks and predatory speculation about specific women.
Casada had only just come out from under a barrage of unfavorable scrutiny for his having appointed an accused statutory rapist, Congressman David Byrd of Waynesboro, to chair a major education subcommittee, and of offering spirited defense of Byrd for months before finally and reluctantly removing him as chairman. Byrd remains in the legislature, however.
For further background, I'll take the liberty of reposting an article I wrote for the Nashville Scene back in February (before the forced ending of Byrd's chairmanship):
"If there is one fundamental difference between the current Speaker of the state House, Glen Casada of Franklin, and his predecessor, Beth Harwell of Nashville, it surely is in the fact that Harwell could be discreet in the extreme — to the point that she had difficulty gaining visibility in her race last year for Governor — whereas Casada is a veritable lightning rod for notoriety.
"This past week alone, Speaker Casada has pulled off a two-fer on the gaffe scale:
"(1) He managed to provide cover for Rep. David Byrd, accused of multiple vintage incidents of sexual misbehavior and freshly under fire for violating the First Amendment rights of students from his district visiting the Capitol.
"(2) On top of that, Casada was involved in a shoving incident with a protester of the continued presence in the Capitol of a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, pre-Civil War slave-trader, accused architect of a battlefield massacre, and supposed Ku Klux Klan founder.
"Actually, you could probably make that a three-fer, in that Casada was, at the very least complicit, after the second incident, in the shielding by state troopers of his getaway from media members seeking him for comment following an intervening event in the Old Supreme Court Chambers.
"Apropos this latter point, it should be remembered that Casada was an official representative of state government at the recent convention of the Tennessee Press Association at the DoubleTree Hotel, where he welcomed the assembled journalists with an expression of gratitude and encouragement for their commitment to an 'open and free' press.
"The degree of Casada's devotion to free inquiry by the media was further clarified in a portion of his odd, Trump-like response in a front-page comment to The Tennessean regarding the Byrd affair, wherein he said, 'Unfortunately, the media has irresponsibly taken it upon itself to reinforce the self-inflicted designation of "fake news" while displaying a complete lack of journalistic integrity when needed most.'
"That comment would surely apply as well to the presence of a CNN crew conspicuously situated for hours outside a House hearing room on the second floor of the Cordell Hull Building on Wednesday — lying in wait, as it were, for an elusive Casada.
"As it happens, Casada had already indirectly — perhaps unwittingly — made himself available on a cell-phone video recorded by one Justin Kanew, a former Democratic candidate for Congress in the 7th District. Kanew pressed Casada on his resistance to 'allegations' of sexual misconduct against Byrd from several women, who were juveniles at the time, during his service as a teacher and coach in Waynesboro.
"Though as Kanew noted, other Republican office-holders had called for Byrd's resignation, Casada defended the District 71 legislator (whom he called 'David') against the women's charges, which he described as 'fake news,' and expressed his continued confidence in his own appointment of Byrd as chairman of the House Higher Education subcommittee.
"Most controversially, Casada said, in a double non sequitur which would become notorious, that 'if I was raped, I would move. And hell would have no fury.'
"Casada had all the fury he could ask for this past week. And it ain't over yet. The David Byrd affair has been re-ignited big-time, and the shoving incident with the Forrest protester is still reverberating, to the point that Capitol observers are openly speculating as to what the next chapter in the Casada saga could be."
The next chapter for Casada, as it turned out, was having a cup of coffee thrown at him as he was boarding a Capitol elevator by the aforementioned Forrest protestor. That was the origin of the aforementioned judicial ban on further contact with the Speaker by Justin Jones, the protestor.
Just last Thursday, on the last day of this year's legislative session, a fracas broke out in the House of Representatives when Speaker Casada ordered that the doors of the House chamber be locked to prevent the body's 26 Democrats from walking out en masse in protest of the Speaker's refusal to appoint at least one of them to a joint House-Senate conference committee on the last unresolved issue of the session, a bill in favor of block grant control of Medicaid funding in Tennessee. Representative G.A. Hardaway of Memphis was roughed up in the process.
Still later that evening, minutes before final adjournment, one of the women from Waynesboro who had kept a constant vigil on the David Byrd situation stood up in the balcony of the House gallery and began shouting at Casada, demanding that he resign. Cowbells began ringing elsewhere in the balcony in defense of her demand, and, as troopers moved to carry the woman out, Casada began pounding his gavel on the dais as if he could thereby silence the general cacophony and the criticism in the same way that he was used to demanding order in the House itself.
The session shortly ended, but then came the Cothren matter, and the Casada matter itself may well have further resolution.
Several GOP lawmakers have begun, either privately or publicly, to align themselves with efforts to oust Casada from his leadership position. Among them are current Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), who said on Wednesday about Casada, "He and I had a talk yesterday. I shared with him my feelings about how I thought it would be better for him to step down. The truth eventually comes out."
UPDATE: The Tennessee Firearms Association, a pro-gun group with close ties to many Republican legislators, urged Speaker Casada's ouster in a blistering statement released on Thursday.The TFA statement follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tennessee Firearms Association calls for House Members to remove Glen Casada as Speaker
Nashville, Tennessee - May 9, 2019. Tennessee Firearms Association is calling for members of the Tennessee House of Representatives to vote to remove Glen Casada as Speaker of the Tennessee House based on investigations surrounding the lewd text messaging, the attempted coverup, intentionally false statements to reporters, and related concerns.z
John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, states “The Speaker of the House is the third most powerful position in state government. That office holds unilateral control over most of the significant affairs of the House, such as appointments and removals of committee chairs. It would be an unquestioned breach of the public’s interest and trust to have a person in that office who is now proven to be willfully false in his dealings with news reporters and in responding to matters of significant public interest.” Harris continued, “since the Speaker is selected by the House members, it is ultimately the duty of all House members under their oaths of office and as public stewards to make sure that their selected leader is a person of unquestioned truthfulness, integrity and character.”
News reports from Nashville over the last 48 hours document without dispute that Speaker Glen Casada has been willfully dishonest when he attempted to cover up his involvement in the lewd text messaging and misconduct scandal, some of which involved the use of illegal drugs by the Chief of Staff while in government offices, involving himself and his former Chief of Staff. These reports reveal that Glen Casada knew who released the text messages to Channel 5’s Phil Williams as early as Tuesday of last week but that Casada intentionally questioned the existence and source of the text messages in a subsequent interview with Phil Williams and in a radio spot with Phil Valentine of WWTN 99.7 FM (” Now we know that @GlenCasada lied to me when he made up this vast left-wing conspiracy theory (à la Hillary Clinton) just to cover for this idiot Cothren whom Casada had the bad judgement to make his chief of staff. Time to go.” – Twitter post on May 8, 2019).
Elected members of the Tennessee General Assembly take an oath that is set forth in Article X, Section 2, of the state’s Constitution which contains this sworn declaration: “… I will, in all appointments, vote without favor, affection, partiality, or prejudice; and that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State.” As such, the members of the General Assembly are sworn to protect the interests of the public and to do so with the highest fiduciary and stewardship principles.
Harris commented “the members of the Tennessee Legislature have an affirmative and fiduciary duty to the people of Tennessee to protect the office of Speaker from being held by people who lack the integrity, truthfulness or trust that must be unquestionably present to serve in that office. Speaker Casada, by his conduct and willful dishonesty in a matter of public interest, has unquestionably shown to the other members and the public that he is unqualified to serve in of the highest offices of public trust in the State.”
The members of the Tennessee Legislature individually and collectively owe a duty to the people of the state of Tennessee to set aside personal friendships, loyalties and partisan partialities that they may have and act now to remove Glen Casada from the office of Speaker and to carefully select a replacement who can be fully and unquestionably trusted by the people of this state in this high office. The public has a right, set forth in Article I, Section 23, of the state’s Constitution to demand of their elected officials that they take action now to restore the office of Speaker by purging its current holder from power and the public should be exercising that right to demand accountability and integrity in all branches of public service.
About the Tennessee Firearms Association. The TFA is a nonprofit Tennessee corporation that is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(4) issue advocacy group. TFA's focus is on issues that relate the rights and interests of Tennesseans under the 2nd Amendment as well as related interests in hunting, sport shooting, collecting and state sovereignty. TFA has been repeatedly recognized by the Tennessee Legislature for its dedication to protecting the rights and interests of Tennesseans.