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Phil Williams discusses the the GOP harassment scandal in Tennessee

Scripps News Nashville's Phil Williams explains why Tennessee's House speaker resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal.
Phil Williams discusses the the GOP harassment scandal in Tennessee
Posted at 8:58 PM, Apr 24, 2023

What did Tennessee's House speaker and his fellow Republicans know, and when did they know it? That is the central question in a sexual harassment scandal involving a prominent GOP lawmaker in the state. 

A top Republican in the Tennessee House resigned just hours after a Scripps News Nashville investigation revealed he was the subject of a sexual harassment investigation involving college interns.

Chief investigative reporter Phil Williams of Scripps News Nashville joined Scripps News Reports to discuss the investigation, and what it uncovered about the way Tennessee's House of Representatives handles harassment claims.

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"This is the way the system is set up," Williams said. "The process is that a complaint of sexual harassment against a member of the House goes before this ethics Subcommittee. That subcommittee deliberates in secret, and really all they do is issue a very vaguely worded letter that says the member has been found guilty of sexual harassment or discrimination. And that's the way the process has been set up. Supposedly it was designed to protect the victim. But I think what we're seeing in this case that it also has the effect — intended or not — of protecting the perpetrator."

"I think the question that our investigation has raised is that 'If you have a member of the state House of Representatives who's accused of such vulgar behavior toward a legislative intern, a college intern, shouldn't somebody with some power know the details?'" Williams said. "And I think that's going to be a conversation that the Legislature's going to have in the coming weeks."


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