Tennessee GOP House speaker to resign amid scandal over inappropriate messages
Tennessee’s Republican House speaker announced Tuesday that he will resign from his role following reports he and his former chief of staff used racist and sexually explicit language in text messages.
“When I return to town on June 3, I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as Speaker so that I can help facilitate a smooth transition,” House Speaker Glen Casada said in a statement.
Casada had resisted pressure to step down over a scandal surrounding his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, who resigned earlier this month. Local media reports said Cothren sent racist text messages, attempted to frame a protester and sent sexually explicit messages to interns. Casada had defended Cothren in interviews and dismissed his own participation in sexual and derogatory messages with Cothren as “locker room talk,” employing a phrase used by President Donald Trump used to describe his vulgar language in the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.
Earlier this month, the House Democratic Caucus demanded that Casada leave office, calling his actions “unbecoming and disrespectful.” On Monday, the Tennessee House Republican caucus approved in a closed-door meeting a “no confidence” resolution, according to CNN affiliate WKRN-TV.
“There is no place in either the House Republican Caucus, in the House, or in the Legislature, or in anywhere in which any type of sexist, or racist, or inappropriate remarks are going to be permitted,” Majority Caucus chairman Rep. William Lamberth told reporters after the 45-24 vote done by secret ballot. “And I think that has been stated very clearly by this caucus today, is that regardless of how long ago, regardless of what the behavior is, we take these type of allegations very, very seriously.”
Emerging from the meeting, Casada said he was “disappointed” in the caucus’ vote but appeared unwilling to step down.
“I will work the next few months to regain the confidence of my colleagues so we can continue to build on the historic conservative accomplishments of this legislative session,” Casada said in a statement at the time.
In the wake of the vote, Republican Gov. Bill Lee said he was prepared to call a special session if Casada didn’t resign.
The state’s Republican Party chair called the circumstances surrounding Casada a “distraction” from the “great accomplishments” of the state legislature and Lee.
“The vote of no confidence by the Republican caucus sends a clear message; it is time for the Speaker to heed the advice of the majority of his fellow legislators and step down from his position of leadership and allow someone else to begin the process of restoring the trust of all Tennesseans,” party chairman Scott Golden said in a statement Monday.