Ramsey: 'Let People Decide Who's Telling The Truth'
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Despite criticism from inside his own party, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is making no apologies about his plan to target three state Supreme Court justices.
Ramsey told reporters he knows his plan of attack isn't the whole story, but he said that's not his problem.
Surrounded by Capitol Hill reporters, he faced tough questions over his plan to go after three Supreme Court justices who face a yes-no retention vote in August.
"Let the people decide who's telling the truth," the lieutenant governor said emphatically.
Ramsey wants to gain Republican control of Tennessee's justice system, and he's trying to line up big business and others who will spend the money to do it. The three justices were all appointed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
As part of the effort, Ramsey's office prepared a PowerPoint presentation, first revealed by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, that lays out some potential points of attack.
"This is the same thing exactly as called for in our constitution, people. Can you not understand that?" the Blountville Republican asked reporters.
"Oh, come on," he responded. "No, I'm not misleading. I'll have our side. They'll have their side."
Ramsey's document faults the court for appointing Attorney General Bob Cooper, calling him an "enemy of job creators" for entering into a number of consumer lawsuits against big corporations.
What Ramsey leaves out is that most of the Republican AGs across the country also joined those very same suits.
"I'm telling my side of the story and they'll to tell their side of the story. Every campaign tells half of the story, Phil, come on," he said.
But Republican lawyer Lew Conner has called Ramsey's plan an "unjustified attack on the independence of the judiciary." He added, "It's not about telling a story. It's about telling the truth."
Even Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam expressed concern Wednesday about Ramsey's idea to turn the election into a referendum on two death penalty cases heard by the justices.
"As judges, you are restricted in how you can respond to some things. So I think it's one of the dangers in having an election about specific issues when judges can't comment on those issues."
The lieutenant governor said he did not understand that concern.
"They are prohibited from going out on the stump and talking about specific cases," NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted.
"Specific cases, yes," Ramsey replied.
"But you are going to attack them on specific cases," we continued.
"Well, they will have a committee to defend themselves," he said. "There's nothing wrong with that. That's what it's all about."
Ramsey's document also suggests that the court be portrayed as "soft on crime," arguing that the case of Arthur Copeland shows how the justices let a convicted murderer "out of death row and back into society."
The truth is that, after the Court ruled there were serious issues with Copeland's first trial, prosecutors discovered serious holes in their own own case and cut a deal to give Copeland a 14-year prison sentence -- a critical detail that Ramsey leaves out.
"Campaigns are about telling your side of the story, which is what I'm telling. They tell their side of the story. Then the people decide," the lieutenant governor said.
"But are you telling the truth..." we started to ask.
"Yes, I'm telling the truth," Ramsey interjected.
"When you say the court that the court let people go free when it was actually prosecutors?"
"I think the court had to agree."
In fact, the case never got back to the Supreme Court.
Still, Ramsey made no apologies about his suggested points of attack.
"If I am running for election, do I tell both sides? No, I tell what I think will enhance my election."
The lieutenant governor assured reporters that he -- and the groups he's talking to -- will double-check their facts before they use those issues in a campaign.
Still, that hasn't stopped him and his team from using those claims to try to line up people who could spend millions of dollars for that effort.
A commission that Ramsey helped appoint a commission has recommended that the justices should be retained.
Asked him if it was a waste of taxpayer resources for him to ignore his own commission, he responded: "It may be a waste of taxpayer resources to have that commission because the commission never recommends not to retain people."