‘Democrats are not our friends’: GOP lawmakers voice angst with ‘Tennessee Three’ in audio leaks

Lawmakers expressed frustrations over the decision to not expel Gloria Johnson.
Lawmakers expressed frustrations over the decision to not expel Gloria Johnson in leaked audio from a Republican House Caucus meeting.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 3:26 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2023 at 11:22 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - In an audio recording obtained by The Tennessee Holler, State House Republican lawmakers shared frustrations about “The Tennessee Three,” Reps. Justin Pearson, Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson, and their claims that expelling Jones and Pearson was racially motivated.

Jones, D-Nashville, and Pearson, D-Memphis, were expelled from the House after they led gun reform protests on the House floor. Republicans argued they broke House rules, and therefore deserved to be removed. The Tennessee Three argued they were fighting for the lives of children and stricter gun laws.

Johnson later said the vote seemed racially motivated after she was not expelled from the House, but her Black colleagues were.

“I think now more than ever everyone should realize that Democrats are not our friends,” one lawmaker said on the recording. “I listened for the last three days to Democrats ... trash us as racists ... I’ve never had anybody call me a racist. Good Lord, we have to realize they are not our friends ... I can be polite to them, but they are not our friends.”

Johnson said she was shocked to hear her colleagues refer to the Democrats as “the enemy.”

“They were talking about a war and going after their enemies and how they hated to see me and my colleagues in the hallway because we weren’t deserving,” Johnson said.

The lawmaker said a fellow Republican colleague voting not to remove Johnson from the House made the public’s perception of the vote much worse.

Another Republican lawmaker said he has been called a racist, a misogynist and white supremacist after the vote “more in the last two months” than he has his entire life. The lawmaker later says it will be hard for him to see Jones in the House “that the greats of Tennessee stood.”

“(It will be hard) to watch them disrespect this state that I chose to move to,” he said.

Pearson, who returned to the House on Thursday, wasn’t surprised by what he heard.

“I’m not surprised at all. As I said, the Republican Party is trying to turn our democracy into a mob autocracy, where they are in complete control, like a mob and rule over people,” Pearson said. “It’s is amazing to hear them break their own membership.”

The House Republican Caucus said through its spokesperson, “We have no comment about private conversations.”