Governor ‘glad’ to meet with woman who accused lawmaker

March 19, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday that it took “a lot of courage” for a woman to meet with him last week about her accusations of sexual misconduct against a state lawmaker.

The Republican told reporters that he was glad to meet Christi Rice and hear her story, but declined to discuss specifics of the private meeting.

Rice and another woman have accused Republican Rep. David Byrd of inappropriately touching them as their high school basketball coach three decades ago. A third said he tried to.

When asked if he thinks he will weigh in on whether Byrd should resign, Lee told reporters, “you’ll have to ask Representative Byrd about resigning. I’m glad that she had the courage to come speak with me.”

Lee said he hasn’t met with Byrd about the allegations and hasn’t yet made plans to.

“What’s next is that I process what she’s had to say and, glad to listen to her story, and will want to hear any other input on it, but that’s where it stands right now,” Lee said.

Byrd has refused calls to resign and has been appointed to a House education subcommittee chairmanship, sparking protests by victim advocates to criticize the appointment by Republican House Speaker Glen Casada.

After the meeting with Lee, Rice said the governor was “extremely nice” and interested in what she had to say.

“He didn’t (say) anything definitively but my impression was that he is an honest, moral man that does not condone sexual abuse and will not stand for status quo,” Rice said.

When the allegations first came to light last year, Republican Senate Speaker Randy McNally and former GOP House Speaker Beth Harwell called for Byrd to resign.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who say they have faced sexual misconduct unless they agree to be identified.

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