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Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada resigns over text message scandal
Casada, top aide reportedly exchanged explicit, misogynistic messages about various women
NASHVILLE (CFP) — Bowing to mounting pressure to depart after two weeks of lurid headlines about bad behavior by his top aide, Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada has announced that he will resign his leadership post.
In a brief statement issued May 21, the Franklin Republican said he would meet with his party’s House leadership in early June “to determine the best date for me to resign as speaker so that I can facilitate a smooth transition.”
The move comes after House Republicans approved a vote of no confidence in Casada and Republican Governor Bill Lee threatened to call the legislature into to special session to remove him as speaker.
Casada, 59, who has served in the legislature since 2003, became speaker in January. He plans to remain a member of the House.
The current speaker pro tempore, Bill Dunn of Knoxville, will become speaker upon Casada’s departure.
Earlier this month, Tennessee’s Gannett newspapers gained access to copies of text messages from a cell phone number used by Cade Cothren, Casada’s chief of staff.
In those messages, sent between 2014 and 2016 when Cothren served as press secretary for House Republicans, he bragged about his sexual exploits, referred to women with obscene and derogatory terms, and solicited sex and nude photos from an intern.
The records obtained by the newspapers showed that Casada was a participant in some of those conversations.
Cothren, 32, who made nearly $200,000 a year working for Casada, told the newspapers that he was “young and dumb and immature” when he sent the emails between three and five years ago.
Cothren also admitted to Nashville TV station WTVF that he had used cocaine at work and sent racist text messages. He said he had “turned to maladaptive coping mechanisms” because of job stress.
The station reported that Casada received at least one of the racist text messages. After first accusing WTVF of using fabricating messages, the speaker later backed away from that claim but said he did not remember receiving the message.
Casada told WTVF that Cothren had sought treatment in 2016 and that he had kept him on his staff because Cothren “deserved a shot at redemption.”
Cothren resigned on the same day the Gannett newspapers published their investigation. Casada resisted calls to step aside, at one point calling his exchanges with Cothren “locker room talk,” but saw his support crumble as national news outlets picked up on the scandal.
Republicans hold a 73-26 majority in the Tennessee House.