A top aide in the Tennessee House resigned Monday evening after a tumultous series of revelations and accusations against him.
Some of the accusations could also implicate his boss, House Speaker Glen Casada.
In a statement to WPLN, Cothren applauded the Republican leadership in the statehouse. “At this point, the best thing for me to do is step down so House and Senate Republicans can continue focusing on those things that make Tennessee the best state in the entire nation,” he said.
A Series Of Revelations
The final straw, it appeared, were text messages obtained by The Tennessean that appeared to show Cade Cothren sending inappropriate text messages between 2014 and 2016, including soliciting sexual acts from an intern and a lobbyist.
In some messages, Casada appeared to discuss Cothren’s sexual encounters and sharing other lewd comments.
Cothren was already facing other accusations that surfaced in the past few days: that he misled prosecutors about an email in an investigation and that he sent racist texts, including sending a meme about black people to Casada. On Thursday evening, Casada denied having received that text message, defended Cothren’s character and said the email confusion was the result of a faulty spam filter.
Then, earlier Monday, Cothren admitted to using cocaine in his legislative office a few years ago in an interview with NewsChannel 5, but he attempted to do some damage control by issuing a statement acknowledging his actions were a mistake.
“I am proud that, with God’s grace and a strong support system, I’ve been able to achieve so much in the years since,” Cothren said. “Like so many young, egotistical men aspiring to a career in politics that came before me, moving up the career ladder was met with unrelenting stress, peer pressure, and unrealistic expectations. I know that this is not an excuse.”
Casada, meanwhile, said Cothren had confided him in three years ago that he was struggling with “personal issues” and decided to keep him on staff.
“Politics has become a game of ‘gotcha’ with no thought of forgiveness and starting anew,” Casada said. “I choose to believe that we all deserve a shot at redemption. I gave Mr. Cothren this chance to prove himself, and that’s exactly what he’s done.”
The Tennessee Black Caucus is requesting a neutral investigation by the TBI into whether Cothren used racist language and images. They also want investigators to look into another claim made against Cothren: that he doctored an email to make it look like a political activist had defied a court order not to have any contact with the House speaker.
Sexual Scandals Not New At The Legislature
Beyond accusations of racism or drug use, the lewd text messages obtained by The Tennessean expanded the scandal to include sexual harassment — an issue that’s dogged the state Capitol for several years.
Some of the texts appeared to be sent by Cothren in the summer of 2016. That’s when another lawmaker, Franklin Republican Jeremy Durham, was being accused of making lewd remarks to dozens of lobbyists.
Casada was among Durham’s strongest defenders before he was eventually ousted.
The House speaker has also stood by Rep. David Byrd, who’s faced allegations he had sexual contact with underage girls when he was their basketball coach in the 1980s. Casada promoted Byrd to chair of an education subcommittee this year but later requested that the Waynesboro lawmaker step down from that position. Byrd has remained in office.
This story was updated Monday at 7:30 p.m.