NASHVILLE, TN – Speaker of the House Glen Casada started out denying how racist and sexist texts ended up on his cell phone and doubted his Chief of Staff had anything to do with them.
It is apparent that Cade Cothren wrote them. Casada exchanged explicitly racist and sexist texts with Cothren, then excused them as just locker room talk. With criticism mounting, Casada abruptly fired Cothren last week but insisted he was not resigning. Instead he announced an action plan he was working on with the Tennessee Black Caucus.
Caucus Chairman G.A. Hardaway told reporters Friday that the caucus wasn’t working with Casada. “We did not issue a communique. That came from the speaker’s office,” said Hardaway.
Although the Democratic Caucus made up of members from both houses called for Casada’s resignation on Friday, the Black Caucus did not join them.
“We believe in due process. The Black Caucus has kinfolk who were lynched because there was no due process. The Black Caucus has kids put in jail even today at this moment from lack of due process,” Hardaway said.
So they agreed to meet with Casada this week to hear him out. “I’ll have a chance to look in his eyes and evaluate his answers and his sincerity after that we will confer and caucus and we’ll decide where to go from there,” Hardaway said last Friday.
Members of the Black Caucus met with Casada on Monday, May 13. When he left the meeting Casada brushed aside some questions from reporters but apologized for language he used towards two men he texted about in 2015. “That was three and a half years ago, and if you look at my texts today you do not see that talk in my today’s texting,” he said.
While caucus member were still deliberating, Phil Williams released new texts from Casada sent August 21, 2016 asking his Chief of Staff if two young women dancing in Cothren’s apartment were of legal age.
“R they 21?” Casada asked. “It only takes 18,” Cothren responded, adding a smile emoji. Casada’s answer: “Lol!!! And true!”
Well, that pretty much cooked Casada’s goose.
Caucus Chairman Hardaway spoke with reporters Monday evening and called for Casada to resign his position. “We did not get satisfactory responses to our questions today,” Hardaway said.
“We still want the independent investigations to proceed and we don’t believe we can guarantee our constituents that the right thing is going to happen, that there won’t be a cover up unless we have new leadership at the top,” he said.
Last Friday, Governor Bill Lee and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said Casada should resign and The Tennessean reported Monday that at least 10 GOP caucus members want to take a vote of confidence on Casada. Leaving his meeting with the Black Caucus on Monday afternoon Casada told reporters he still had the support of most members of the House Republican Caucus.
Meanwhile, the Black Caucus has sent letters to Washington asking federal authorities to open investigations about the culture of racism and sexism pervading the state capitol and all that goes on there.
They spent most of their time Monday discussing the case of Justin Jones, a civil rights activist, who was almost jailed for allegedly violating a no contact order with Casada’s now former Chief of Staff, Cade Cothren.
The “evidence” against Jones was a screen capture of an email. The dates didn’t match. On Friday, May 10, Hardaway criticized District Attorney General Glenn Funk for not catching the fraud on his own and wondered if Funk wasn’t “too close” to the Speaker’s office to keep him from doing his job properly.
“We believe the email was altered, intentionally altered, and we believe that it was done for the purpose of locking up, taking the freedom of young Justin Jones, the Civil Rights activist. I don’t think you can get any more unpatriotic than when you see someone use the color of your authority to bridge the Constitutional civil rights of a fellow American,’ Hardaway said. He was referring to Casada, Cothren, and Funk, who are white. The caucus want independent investigators to establish who did what when because they still have unanswered questions about how Jones was framed.
“I can tell you a lot of time was spent on the issue of justice and the email and the conditions under which the email was exchanged with the DA’s office, when, what did it look like, was it altered, if so, how and when was it altered? What did the DA decide to do and when did he decide to do it?” asked Hardaway.
This is the first time the Black Caucus has ever asked a Speaker of the House to resign. Caucus spokesperson Ken Jobe said asking for a federal probe of the DA’s office was also unprecedented.
“This is a rare opportunity for the Black Caucus to have substantial impact on race relations on Capitol Hill, a substantial impact on how the justice system works, to have substantial impact on how women are treated on Capitol Hill,” Hardaway said.