A divided Republican leadership is at odds over what to do about accusations against Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro.
Almost immediately when the scandal broke, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, called for Byrd’s resignation.
But when House Republican leadership held their weekly news conference Thursday, it was unclear when or if they would ever take action.
What three women claim happened off the basketball court more than 30 years ago is now rocking the state capitol.
“It’s a distraction, really, which is why we’re here,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville.
Three former players are accusing Byrd of sexual misconduct while they were teens on his basketball team in the 1980s.
In a statement, Byrd only denied wrongdoing during his time as a state lawmaker, a period that dates back to 2014.
Byrd told the I-Team he does not plan to resign.
The women said the misconduct happened more than 30 years ago.
Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, said if Byrd refuses to resign, the time to take action is now.
“I think it would be in the best interests of the General Assembly and probably everybody else who knows about this situation,” Jones said.
As of today, two top Republican leaders are at a standstill over what to do.
“As somebody who’s got a 14-year-old daughter at home, I’m concerned about the allegations,” Williams said. “But I don’t know where we go from here to be brutally honest with you. I’m trying to figure out, communicate with [Byrd].”
Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Thompson Station, said he, too, is waiting to talk to Byrd.
“I’m going to talk to him before I make a public statement on my opinion,” Casada said.
Casada said the same thing yesterday.
“I would like to talk to Coach Byrd before I make an announcement of what I want to do,” he said Wednesday.
Casada said he has not had the chance to talk to Byrd, even though the men sat just feet away from each other today during a three-hour floor session.
“People want to know: Is leadership turning the other cheek to these allegations?” reporter Alanna Autler asked.
“I don’t see us turning our cheek to anything,” Williams said. “We are giving an opportunity for the report that you gave for Coach Byrd to give a response, he gave a written response. I haven't talked to Coach Byrd and neither has he today. I don't know what the solution is. To be abundantly clear, we’re not turning a cheek to anything. The reason why we're here sitting talking to you is because we're not.”
The House Ethics Committee cannot investigate the matter because the allegations predate Byrd’s time in office.
In 2016, the House voted to expel former Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, after he faced accusations of sexual harassment detailed in an Attorney General’s report.Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.