POLITICS

Tennessee House Speaker Defends Lawmaker On Sex Assault Allegations: 'If I Was Raped, I Would Move'

Three women have accused state Rep. David Byrd of sexually assaulting them when he was their high school basketball coach in the 1980s.

Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada recently came to the defense of a Republican colleague accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls, suggesting that rape victims would move away from their attacker.

Casada made the comments regarding state Rep. David Byrd (R-Tenn.) in a video published Tuesday by The Tennessee Holler, a liberal-leaning website. The video shows Democratic former congressional candidate Justin Kanew confronting Casada, who became speaker last month, about his continued support for Byrd despite the allegations against him. 

Local news outlets reported last year that three women accused Byrd of sexually assaulting them when he was their basketball coach at Wayne County High School in the 1980s. One of the accusers gave WSMV-TV a recording of a phone conversation between her and Byrd last year regarding her alleged assault when she was 15 years old.

“I can promise you one thing ― I am so sorry for that. I’ve lived with that and you don’t know how hard it has been for me,” Byrd says in the recording, adding that he asks for forgiveness for his “sins” when he takes Communion every Sunday. He does not specify what he is apologizing for.

Casada says in the video that he “disagrees” Byrd admits in the recording to molesting the teenagers.

Kanew tells Casada that the women have been scrutinized ever since they came forward with their allegations against Byrd.

“If it’s important, and it is ― it’d be important to me if I was raped, I would move,” Casada says. “And hell would have no fury.”

Kanew responds that Casada cannot possibly say what he would do if he “were raped as a woman in rural Tennessee.”

“Or as a man, I could,” Casada replies.

Casada says he thinks the women believe “something that’s not true.” He previously questioned the women’s credibility, running re-election ads that liken Byrd to President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and calling Byrd a victim of “fake news.”

Byrd was re-elected in November, and Casada has since appointed Byrd to chair the House’s new education administration committee. Kanew tells Casada in the video that many people are against moving Byrd to a leadership position amid the allegations.

“We’re not asking for a conviction,” says Kanew, who told The Tennessean he has been working with the political action committee Enough Is Enough Tennessee to oust Byrd over the allegations. “You have the authority not to empower men like that and make it OK. Because what happens is the next guy sees that nothing happened, and he’s going to do it.”

Casada has not immediately responded to a message requesting comment on the video.

Former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) called for Byrd’s resignation last year in the wake of the allegations. Byrd released a statement at the time refusing to resign and apologizing “if I hurt or emotionally upset any of my students.”

Byrd is the third Tennessee lawmaker since 2016 to face sexual misconduct accusations. The state House expelled Republican Jeremy Durham in 2016 after reports that he engaged in sexual misconduct with nearly two dozen women. Republican Mark Lovell resigned from the state House in 2017 after allegations he sexually harassed a woman.

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