After weeks of turmoil following a text message scandal involving his top aide, Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada announced he was stepping down from his role on Tuesday night.
The texts, leaked earlier this month, were sent from Casada’s then-chief of staff, Cade Cothren, and contained a vibrant melange of sexist, racist commentary. Among the most disturbing messages Cothren sent: Calling Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston a “thug nigger;” referring to black people as “idiots;” and bragging to Casada about having sex with a woman in a restaurant bathroom.
From the Tennessean:
“Just so y’all know, I did f—k (woman) in the bathroom at party fowl,” he said, referring to the Party Fowl restaurant. “Will send pictures later.”
Casada responded: “Only gone for 60 seconds,” adding, “R u a minute man???;)”
Cothren said, “Yes, I take after you. Like father like son.”
Casada replied, “Lolol! If I’m happy, then all is good!!!!!”
The text messages were published shortly after a black protester accused Cothren of attempting to frame him.
The scandal forced Cothren’s resignation earlier this month. But many in Tennessee’s political class kept the heat on Casada, whose tenure as a state legislator has been plagued by controversy, for his enabling of Cothren and his initial defense of his former aide.
The backlash culminated in Casada’s own Republican colleagues throwing him under the bus on Tuesday night, with the state’s House Republicans casting an unprecedented 45-24 no-confidence vote for the speaker, according to CNN.
“There is no place in either the House Republican Caucus, in the House, or in the Legislature, or in anywhere in which any type of sexist, or racist, or inappropriate remarks are going to be permitted,” Majority Caucus chairman Rep. William Lamberth told reporters after the secret ballot was held.
“When I return to town on June 3, I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as Speaker so that I can help facilitate a smooth transition,” Casada said in a statement hours after the vote.
You know it’s bad when you’re too racist and sexist for the Tennessee GOP. So it’s important to consider—and list out–Casada’s established pattern of behavior.
Just a few months ago, Casada—who has served as a state rep for nearly 20 years—defended a Republican colleague accused of molesting teenage girls, going so far as to say that if he were a rape victim, he would simply move away from his attacker. As House Speaker, he has helped usher in some of the most regressive laws in years, including a voter suppression bill that was signed into law this past legislative session and a school voucher bill that has been described as a direct attack on public school funding in Nashville and Memphis (both of which have high concentrations of black students).
Swirling underneath all this are accusations within the state capitol that Casada has abused power and helped sustain a toxic culture within the legislature.
Speaking to The Root, Tennessee State Rep. London Lamar said Casada is doing the right thing by resigning.
“As a leader of the Tennessee House, we must expect honesty and inclusiveness from our leaders and racism has no place in the people’s house,” London said. “I am thankful Tennesseans spoke up and kept the pressure on to put an end to the toxic culture here in the Tennessee legislature.”
Of course, Casada wasn’t ousted when he was advocating for and helping push through racist policies. Lest we think the Tennessee GOP woke up one fine May day and picked up some principles, consider that the speaker’s ouster paves the way for a new crop of Tennessee Republicans to grab power—and try to retain their stronghold on the state legislature without the distraction of Casada’s scandals.