House Democrats demand Casada’s removal as speaker

In this May 2, 2019, file photo, House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, left, talks with Cade Cothren, right, his chief of staff, during a House session in Nashville, Tenn. Cothren has resigned amid allegations of racist and sexually explicit texts. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee’s House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday called from the removal of Rep. Glen Casada as House Speaker after racist and sexually explicit text messages surfaced between the Middle Tennessee Republican and his aide.

Casada’s chief of staff Cade Cothren resigned Monday, following media reports of the texts, and allegations that Cothren made sexual advances toward interns. Cothren also admitted that he had used cocaine in the legislative office years prior.

Casada admitted he joined in some of the text messages, but said he was wrong to participate in lewd conversations about women, and described the language as “locker room talk” between adult men. He said the Republican caucus supports him despite recently released text messages showing Cothren bragging to Casada about having sex in a restaurant and other sexually explicit discussions.

But House Democratic leaders say his participation means he should not continue as speaker.

“Citizens of the State of Tennessee deserve to have a Speaker that they can trust; whose character and moral standards are beyond reproach,” said Rep. Karen Camper of Memphis. “The actions of our Speaker are unbecoming and disrespectful, not only to the citizens of our state, but to the office he holds.”

Caucus Chair Mike Stewart added: “Actions have consequences; Speaker Casada’s actions are obviously disqualifying and he must either resign or be removed.”

Gov. Bill Lee addressed the issue in a tweet, although he did not mention Casada or Cothren by name.

“When we choose to enter public service, we have an obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard and cultivate an environment of professionalism and respect,” Lee said. “We owe it to Tennesseans to ensure they know that all of us in elected office hold ourselves to that high standard. The recent revelations have shaken that faith, and we need to ensure that confidence is fully restored.”

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