The no-confidence vote in House Speaker Glen Casada cast by Tennessee Republican lawmakers follows more than two weeks of turmoil.
The multi-layered scandal started after inappropriate texts between him and his former chief of staff were leaked to the media. But Casada’s reaction to the allegations might be one of the main reasons why GOP members left his side.
It all started with reports that Casada’s office had tried to mislead prosecutors into believing Justin Jones, a black local activist, had violated a no-contact order.
The controversy grew after racist and sexist text messages between Casada and his chief of staff were leaked to the media.
Casada’s reaction? He called the stories “fake” and denied the accusations.
“If they run one story that’s not true, will they run the second story that’s not true?” Casada said initially.
But in the following days, Casada ended up taking responsibility for some of the texts.
Still, he said he was not resigning from his position as Speaker.
“I think that it’s important that I stay because if two texts run someone out of office, then there is no one qualified,” Casada told reporters. “We’ve got members all across the community that have done things that are not excusable, and they are still on leadership role.”
That decision — of first denying the accusations and then saying they were contained to a couple of messages — seems to have backfired.
On Monday, members of his own party cast a rare no-confidence vote in the Speaker.
Tom Ingram, a Republican strategist who served as chief of staff of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander for seven years, said it’s not unusual for people in trouble to deny their wrongdoings. But he said it’s never a good idea.
“That’s the worst possible response,” Ingam said. “When you get caught doing something in politics or business or pretty much in life, the best thing to do is admit it and apologize if that’s appropriate, and then manage your way out of it the best you can.”
Ingram has seen this before with other politicians, including when Democrats have been in power.
“At the federal level, the state level or wherever — when either party becomes so dominant that they become arrogant, they take things for granted, and they don’t have a sense of accountability.”
And it didn’t help that Casada has been a polarizing figure even among members of his party.
Rep. David Hawk, R-Greenville, ran challenged Casada for the top job in the House.
“The predominant reason I ran to be speaker of the House is I knew that a Casada speakership would be a disaster.” Hawk told WPLN.