GOP leader orders removal of accused lawmaker protesters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A top Tennessee Republican on Tuesday asked troopers to escort a handful of protesters out of a legislative hearing after the group held signs and asked committee members if they approved of a lawmaker who’s accused of sexual misconduct chairing the panel.
House Speaker Glen Casada’s office made the decision during an education subcommittee hearing. The six women were sitting in the front row and only started asking questions while the education subcommittee was in recess. They held signs near their faces that read “Enough is enough,” ″Take a stand” and “Protect constituents.”
None of the women were charged once escorted out of the room. Troopers said they received the request from Casada’s office because the women were considered a distraction.
Casada has come under fire for appointing Republican Rep. David Byrd to an education subcommittee despite three women accusing Byrd of sexual misconduct when he was their high school basketball coach decades ago.
Two women have alleged Byrd inappropriately touched them. The third has said Byrd tried to.
One of the women, Christi Rice, recorded a call to Byrd. The recording had the lawmaker apologizing but he didn’t detail his action and denied anything happened with other students.
Byrd was 28-years-old at the time and working as head coach at Wayne County High School when Rice says he abused her.
“I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would’ve never happened,” Byrd said in the recorded call. “But I hope you believe me when I say that it’s one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me.”
Byrd did not address the women during Tuesday’s hearing. Instead, while waiting for a speaker to attend, Byrd put the room at recess and stepped out. That’s when the group of women began asking lawmakers still in the room if they approved of Byrd’s appointment to the position.
Only Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station responded.
“The Bible says all standing fall short,” Sexton said.
“So you’re admitting that he did it,” one person called out.
“I’m admitting that we all make mistakes,” Sexton said.
Byrd only returned to the room after troopers started escorting the women out.