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Tennessee's House of Representatives faces racism controversy

Posted at 10:30 AM, May 14, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Black Caucus is now saying it is time for Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada to go.

That call for the House Speaker to step down came late Monday just hours after Casada tried to smooth over the text message scandal with African-American leaders.

In texts obtained by WTVF television station reporters, Casada's chief of staff Cade Cothren had texted "black people are idiots" and used the n-word.

"The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators has voted overwhelming to ask Speaker Casada to resign," the caucus chairman, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, told reporters.

"We did not get answers to our questions. We stll have questions. We still want the independent investigations to proceed."

Earlier in the day, Casada had apologized for his now-former aide's messages.

"It hurt to even acknowledge that thought still exists today in this state, but it obviously does. So I have apologized," the Speaker told reporters after the meeting.

Still, he tried to explain away his role in a text exchange where Cothren responded with a "Black People" meme, referring to a West Tennessee district.

Casada claimed he never saw it.

"If I had, trust me, those that know me well know that you would have lost your job on that one.," he added.

Hardaway's response?

"We don't believe that. We think it's a pattern."

The Black Caucus chairman said caucus members are also concerned with the treatment of student activist Justin Jones.

After the Speaker's Office gave the DA a picture of an email from Jones with what may be an altered date, Nashville's DA asked for a special prosecutor to investigate.

"We don't believe that we can guarantee our constituents that the right thing is going to happen, that there won't be a coverup, unless we have new leadership at the top," Hardaway said.

In addition, Casada told reporters that he demanded that his chief of staff resign after he learned about the racist text messages.

He first accused WTVF of using fabricated texts and insisted that he refused to accept that his longtime aide would do such a thing.