Gov. Bill Haslam would not comment on whether he thinks Rep. David Byrd should resign in light of sexual misconduct allegations, saying the lawmaker’s fate should be left up to the voters.
Last week three women claimed Byrd, R-Waynesboro, initiated sexual contact with them while they were teens on his basketball team more than 30 years ago at Wayne County High School.
“I think that again the wonderful thing, that’s what elections do, the voters in his district from his party are going to get to decide,” said Gov. Haslam, who also noted that there were only several days left in the legislative session.
Thursday afternoon marked the filing deadline for primary candidates. Byrd will run unopposed in the Republican primary in August, before facing Democrat Frankie Floied in the general election.
Byrd refused to resign after Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, called for him to step down following a News 4 I-Team investigation.
This week a group of Byrd’s former players and managers sent a letter to House Republican Majority Leader Glen Casada and House Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams, asking them to support Byrd.
“We never, at any point in time, felt uncomfortable nor had any knowledge of anyone else being uncomfortable or being dealt with unprofessionally,” the letter states.
Casada, R-Thompson’s Station, has said that he does not think Byrd should resign.
For the past week, Williams, R-Cookeville, has said he needs to talk to Byrd before deciding what’s next.
A spokesman said that conversation has still not taken place, even though Williams and Byrd have spent numerous hours together on the House floor over the past week.
The note to Casada and Williams was signed by 66 people, mostly women.
The letter does not address a recording obtained by the News 4 I-Team where Byrd can be heard apologizing to one of his accusers.
“I wouldn’t have told you years ago that I was sorry if I wasn’t,” Byrd said.
It’s unclear what Byrd was referencing on the recording, but he apologized multiple times.
Christi Rice is one of the three women who came forward last week to accuse Byrd of sexual misconduct more than 30 years ago.
Rice said she secretly recorded Byrd in February, then later gave the audio to the I-Team.
Rice claimed that Byrd touched her inappropriately when she was 15 and kissed her at least ten times.
Last week, Byrd stated the accusers’ allegations “were never before made.”
But on the recording, Rice recalled a time when she confronted Byrd 18 years ago.
“In 2000, when I told you not to mess with [my sister], don’t do anything like that, you were like, ‘Christi, I swear to God, you were the only person I ever did that to,’” Rice said.
At the time, Rice’s sister was playing on Byrd’s basketball team. Rice’s sister told the I-Team in a phone interview several months ago she never experienced or witnessed any inappropriate contact from Byrd.
In a statement last week, Byrd did not deny or admit to any of the allegations detailed in the I-Team investigation.
Since then, hundreds of people have voiced their support for Byrd on his Facebook.
This week the I-Team called more than 30 people who signed the letter to Republican leaders to request on-camera interviews. We are still waiting to hear back from the majority of those supporters.
The I-Team also reached out to Byrd but did not hear back by deadline.
To hear more of the recording, watch the original investigation.
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