For the past month, the Tennessee House of Representatives has been one of the most scandal-ridden places in the country. And considering the state of the nation, that's saying a lot. Newly elected Republican speaker Glen Casada, one of the most powerful politicians in the state, has been fighting one controversy after another, and he's become so toxic that his own party has turned on him and forced him out of office.
The albatross around his neck was his own longtime chief of staff, Cade Cothren. Years-old text messages between the two have steadily been leaking to local news, showing Cothren casually dropping the n-word and calling black people idiots. A lot of the messages that local Tennessee news has reported are sexually explicit but not necessarily damning, since they're just personally gross instead of professionally. But Cothren, in others, describes trying to get nude pics from an intern and his goals to bed a lobbyist—he even joked with that same lobbyist that he would have an orgy with her and her husband. And, in one from 2016, Cothren wrote, "just did a gram of cocaine in my office." The timestamp was 10:38 a.m. on a weekday.
Casada first denied that the texts were real, then called them "locker-room talk," then apologized. Cothren, however, finally admitted to all of it, according to local News Channel 5 Nashville, and even said he had done other drugs, though he refused to name which ones. For his part, Casada, despite backing drug testing for welfare recipients, still refused to fire Cothren from his $199,000-a-year position. In a statement, he said, "politics has become a game of ‘gotcha’ with no thought of forgiveness and starting anew."
Unfortunately for him, Casada's party didn't feel as forgiving. Cothren wound up resigning despite his boss's ride-or-die attitude, but Casada himself stayed defiant, saying that he would work to regain his party's trust, even after the state's black caucus called for him to resign—and after the House Republicans held a vote of no confidence. It wasn't until Republican governor Bill Lee said on Monday he was willing to take action to remove him from office that Casada admitted he didn't have a way to pull himself out of the mess.
Even before all this, Casada and Cothren were already caught up in an entirely different scandal. They're facing accusations of framing Justin Jones, a Vanderbilt University divinity student and anti-racism activist. In late February, Jones was arrested for throwing a cup into an elevator at Casada and another representative. Then, in early March, the Nashville district attorney general filed a motion to revoke Jones's bail, claiming he sent an e-mail to Cothren the day after the cup-throwing arrest. Since the e-mail cc'ed Casada, the DA argued, it was a clear violation of his bond conditions, which barred any communication. As it turned out, it seems as though the date on the copy of the e-mail that Cothren gave to the DA had been changed.
Casada and Cothren told reporters that the date on their copies of the e-mail are different because it took a while to get through their security, and also the date just randomly changes, and also they're having IT look into it.
"You have some of the most powerful people in this state who are willing to file a false report and to file false paperwork and to manipulate paperwork to take your freedom away," Jones told Channel 5. "That's something that's scary."
It's not surprising that Casada tried to hold out for so long. With Donald Trump in the White House and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, it's easy to believe that you can survive any scandal if you just plow your way through it. The remarkable thing is that his own party actually turned on him.
Originally Appeared on GQ