After Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled after they protested gun violence on the Statehouse floor earlier this month, national outrage ultimately led to them being reinstated days later. However, the story hasn’t ended there.
A new leaked audio recording, published by The Tennessee Holler, revealed several GOP lawmakers complaining about the public indignation after they tried to get rid of the Black state Reps. Those featured on the tape reportedly include Tennessee state Reps. Jason Zachary, Scott Cepicky, Johnny Garrett, Jody Barrett, and William Lamberth.
The audio allegedly came from a closed caucus meeting held last week, although its authenticity has not been verified. However, the Tennessee House GOP did release a statement in relation to the recording by saying it had “no comment about private conversations.”
The lawmakers can reportedly be heard expressing frustration with Barrett for voting against expelling Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson even though she protested with Pearson and Jones. Johnson is white and avoided being ousted by a single vote. “Man, you hung us out to dry,” Zachary allegedly said to Barrett. In addition, Zachary reportedly added:
“This would’ve been bad anyway, but good God, we were called—it brought the racism into it.” Cepicky also allegedly lamented: “I’ve been called a racist, a misogynist, a white supremacist ... more in the last two months of my life than I have my entire life. ... I’m going to have to swallow this seeing Mr. Jones back up here, walking these hallowed halls that the greats of Tennessee stood in, and watch them disrespect this state that I chose to move to.”
Cepicky also reportedly remarked that Republicans were “at war for our Republic,” and that, “You gotta do what’s right, even if you think it’s wrong.” If Black people are being punished for the same thing a white person—and that white person doesn’t face any consequences—that is an example of racism. The lawmakers are actually just being held accountable for their behavior—the national outcry ensured that.