Controversial Email Causes Committee Chairman to be Removed

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(Memphis) An email written by a state senator Wednesday has caused a firestorm of controversy, and the removal of his position as chairman of the senate higher education sub-committee.

Sen. Jim Summerville, R - Dickson, exchanged emails recently with Rep. Barbara Cooper, D - Memphis, regarding the investigation into grade-changing at Tennessee State University.

Those in attendance for the committee hearing on the issue felt there wasn't much to the controversy after all.

Rep. Cooper wrote to the committee on behalf of the black caucus, emphasizing how the findings suggest this investigation was "much ado about nothing."

While there seems to be little disagreement over that, Summerville responded to Cooper in an email, stating:

"I don't give a rat's a** what the black caucus thinks."

In the subject line, he asked Cooper to "share this response with your colleagues."

Summerville did not respond to News Channel 3’s request for comment.

Late Thursday night, Rep. Cooper said, "His words speak for themselves."

"We got to be careful whom we elect...he's elected to represent all of the people," Cooper said.

She said that having been a teacher for many years, she has always taught her students to behave and speak with respect. She added that she has never, and would never, use the language she saw in that email.

Sen. Dolores Gresham, R - Somerville, told her colleagues she had removed Summerville from his position as chairman of the higher education sub-committee.

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R - Knoxville, said he wasn't surprised at Summerville's statement.

"He's not one of those PC guys, and I guess I'm not either, really, so he just says what he thinks," Campfield said.

Campfield said the black caucus was not on the committee, so he said Summerville doesn’t have to listen to them.

But Rep. G. A. Hardaway, D - Memphis, who serves as vice chairman of the black caucus, did not take the matter as lightly.

He discussed the problem with a group of young Democrats Thursday night.

“He was disrespectful to Rep. Cooper, he was insulting to all of the people of color that we advocate for,” Hardaway said.

News Channel 3 showed the email Memphians coming in and out of the public library.

All those who viewed the email were shocked, saying that an elected official should never use such language.

Some called it “racist” or “inexcusable.”

Emma Cline said, “Even if that wasn't to a black person, even if it was to a white person, that still shouldn't be said.”