After reports surfaced May 6, implicating House speaker Glen Casada in participating in sexually explicit texts along with his chief of staff Cade Cothren, Casada says he expresses regret.
“I take ownership and express regret for the inappropriate text messages that I sent several years ago that have been circulated by media this week,” Casada said in a statement to the Williamson Herald.
“I also want to make it clear that there are several other offensive texts released that included racial epitaphs, illegal activity and workplace policy violations between my former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren and other individuals that I learned about alongside the general public as they were reported.
“As this story continued to evolve in recent days, I had additional conversations with Mr. Cothren and he has since resigned.”
Earlier Tuesday, Casada reportedly called the explicit comments “locker room talk,” while a guest on the Nashville radio station WTN-FM, adding that he was not proud of the statements.
Gov. Bill Lee released a statement regarding the controversies Tuesday.
”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. Recent revelations have shaken that faith, and we need to ensure that confidence is fully restored.”
Cothren embroiled in allegations, incriminating texts
Over the past week, Cothren, who resigned as Casada’s chief of staff Monday evening, was accused of allegedly altering email documents to show that activist Justin Jones violated a court order to stay away from Casada. Ultimately, because of a discrepancy in the date of emails regarding Jones’ order, Will Griffith, the assistant attorney general, turned the case over the District Attorneys General Conference to consider the case.
In addition to those allegations against Cothren made by Channel 5 News, Cothren was exposed as sending derogatory racial texts to an “acquaintance,” showing that he said, “black people are idiots,” among other inflammatory language about African Americans.
On both issues, Casada initially defended Cothren and supported an apology Cothren released to the media Monday. In the apology, Cothren admits to sending the derogatory texts and also admitted to a few publications that he used illegal drugs, including cocaine while working at the capitol.
Cothren resigns, Casada implicated in lewd texts
However, the report that seemed to ultimately lead to Cothren’s resignation were inflammatory texts, reported by The Tennessean May 6, showing that Cothren made sexually explicit comments about women working in the legislature, which included exchanges with Casada, and showed that Cothren solicited sex from a legislative intern.
Casada, Cothren engage in sexually explicit texts aimed toward women
The Tennessean reported May 6 that Cothren's texts include the following: "soliciting oral sex and naked photos from an intern; suggesting he would make sexual advances toward another intern; seeking sex with a lobbyist; referring to another woman as a “c**t”; and calling Metro police officers who gave him parking tickets 'rent a cop cocksuckers.'”
Casada also participates in an exchange with Cothren, according to The Tennessean report.
Casada asked, “Can I just touch????” referring to a woman standing upside down pole dancing, the report said.
Cothren replied, “Lol maybe just once.”
Cothren also texted Casada about a sexual encounter he had with a woman in August 2016, while at one point he responded to Casada, "like father like son," the May 6 story said.
According to The Tennessean's story, the text messages are as follows:
“Just so y’all know, I did f—k (woman) in the bathroom at party fowl,” Cothren texted to Casada. The Party Fowl is a restaurant in Nashville.
“Will send pictures later,” Cothren said.
The report outlines Casada's response as follows: “Only gone for 60 seconds,” adding, “R u a minute man???;)”
“Yes, I take after you. Like father like son,” Cothren reportedly said.
“Lolol! If I’m happy, then all is good!!!!!” Casada then responded.
According to the story in May 2016, Cothren sent another text message to Casada, but he did not respond.
“I have many miles and many girls to go before I sleep,” Cothren said.
"Those girls aren't safe!!! Shepard? He's the wolf!!!" Casada reportedly said in a separate exchange with another person about Cothren in 2016.
Democrats call for Casada’s resignation
Since the text messages, including lewd comments by both Casada and Cothren surfaced, Cothren resigned and Casada has faced harsh scrutiny and local Democrats have even called for his resignation as House speaker.
In a newsletter titled, “It’s time to unseat the speaker,” the Williamson County Democratic Party denounced the actions of Casada and called for him to step down.
“Several days ago, the Williamson County Democratic Party released a statement condemning the questionable leadership of House Speaker Glen Casada,” said the electronic newsletter sent by Brandon M. Schexnayder, state executive committee, District 23.
“Unfortunately, since this statement was released, an even larger swarm of controversy has engulfed the Williamson County legislator ...
“Speaker Casada's judgement can not be trusted, and it is up to us to ensure that it does not continue. I urge you to contact Governor Lee immediately and let him know that it is time to unseat the speaker. The people of Tennessee deserve better.”