The Tennessee House of Representatives voted 70-2 to expel Rep. Jeremy Durham following allegations of sexual harassment.
According to The Associated Press, this is the first expulsion to take place in 36 years.
Durham, R-Franklin, took to the House podium on Tuesday morning to say he has not had a fair investigation or due process. He said he wasn't told what he was accused of or who his accusers were.
"To sum things up, House leadership simply didn't follow the rules. They haven't given any legitimate form of due process," Durham said. "They had someone spend five months collecting as many rumors as possible and put them into a fancy document and now they want you all to violate the Constitution, refuse me any form of due process and bail them out when they're the ones who have messed this whole thing up by not setting up a legitimate process months ago. They're putting the cart before the horse and asking for a punishment before there's due process."
House lawmakers were all given copies of the attorney general’s investigative report on Durham. It contains more than 40 pages of anonymous claims from 22 women who said Durham sexually harassed them at the legislature. It also contained reports from witnesses who knew about the allegations.
“I will tell you, I am very, very angry at these. I feel betrayed. I feel this chamber has been violated by the actions and the allegations,” said Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown.
Rep. Mike Stewart questioned Durham specifically about if he had an underage intern in his office drinking before having sexual relations. He denied it but said he did do some things wrong.
“There’s some things I did wrong, there’s no question about it. Some things I shouldn’t have said. I agree with that, but the ones that everybody’s talking about are the most false ones in there,” Durham said.
Lawmakers continued to drill Durham for the truth.
“As a friend and as your colleague, I would ask to know whether or not it is true, did you at any point as a member of this chamber have sex with an intern in your office?” Lamberth asked.
Durham wouldn’t share details, but said many of the most salacious claims aren’t true.
“I’d simply like to know if everything in this 40-something page report is false or real,” Lamberth added. “I know we can talk about whether or not someone gets due process, but I want to know, for God’s sake, did you do it?”
Stewart questioned Durham for nearly 30 minutes without objection.
“There’s an allegation that you stated to a lobbyist, ‘You need to do something for me if I do something for you,’” Stewart said.
“That is absolutely false and whoever said that is a liar,” Durham replied.
Durham left the chambers before the questioning ended. He was ultimately expelled in a 70-2 vote.
Several state Democrats said Durham’s expulsion only marks the beginning. They called on Speaker Beth Harwell to investigate the accusations in the report, including one instance in which a staffer was allegedly fired for telling the truth about Durham’s advances.
Channel 4 asked Harwell about the lawmakers who allegedly knew of Durham’s actions but did nothing.
“I don’t know who they are, so there’s nothing I can do about that. They’re not identified so I don’t know who they are, but we set a new standard coming forward,” Harwell said.
Lawmakers were called by Gov. Bill Haslam for a special session on an underage drinking law that was barely mentioned Tuesday. The drunk driving bill will be vote on Wednesday morning. Lawmakers expect the session to be over by mid-day.
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