The fall of Tennessee’s House speaker

Special Reports

Big Stories of 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) —Williamson County Representative Glen Casada rose to speaker after 17-years in the Tennessee House, but scandal in his office eventually forced him out after less than seven months in the role.

It began in the waning days of the 2019 legislative session when the new House Speaker was hit almost daily with damaging allegations leaked to the media.

The allegations ranged from spying on members to favors for votes

Among the most eye-opening allegations was past behavior of his chief of staff Cade Cothren.

It included sending racist text messages three years ago.

Speaker Casada initially defended him.

“I have known him and that is just not in his characteristics, so I refuse to believe anything else,” Speaker Casada when word of the racist text messages spead during early May.

The 32-year chief of staff eventually resigned while admitting sending sexist messages during a period between 2014 and 2016, but said “he’s changed a lot since then.”

By then Speaker Glen Casada was having to defend himself.

He admitted replying to some of the sexist texts sent by Cothren three years ago.

“I apologize for the two texts I sent. They were wrong and I was wrong,” Casada said in written statements and to reporters in that first week of May.

While Democrats demanded his resignation, only a few of the speaker’s fellow Republicans followed.

One of them was fellow WIlliamson County Representative Sam Whitson who relayed what he told the speaker.

“For the state of Tennessee, I would ask you to step aside in your role as Speaker of the House,” Rep. Whitson said in an interview with WKRN-TV.

The beleaguered speaker dug in and reached out to various group members like the House Black Caucus.

“The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the events that have taken place in the last couple of days with my chief of staff. Number two and equally important was where do we go from here because the black caucus is very relevant,” saId Speaker Casada on the day he met with a few members of the black caucus.

Those at the meeting and other minority Democrats were not swayed.

Soon other Republican House leaders called for a members only meeting on May 20th to express a vote of confidence or no confidence in the speaker.

Almost two-thirds of the GOP members voted “no confidence” on that day.

The speaker waited a day to say he would soon resign, but he did not say when.

A few weeks later, after a long scheduled European trip, Rep. Glen Casada made it official that he would resign on August 2nd as House speaker, but would not be giving up his Williamson County seat.

Deputy Speaker Bill Dunn assumed the duties as acting speaker until a legislative special session later in August chose the chamber’s Republican caucus chair Cameron Sexton of Crossville as the next speaker.

Glen Casada’s time as speaker was one of the shortest in Tennessee history.

2019 was a year shaped by significant events. News 2 looks at the impact of the big stories of 2019 with special reports all day Thursday – in every newscast. Click here to read more.

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