NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A senior administration official with Governor Bill Lee’s office confirms the governor asked Rep. David Byrd to not seek re-election amid sexual assault allegations against the Waynesboro Republican.
The conversation happened over the phone about a month ago, the official said. The governor's office also clarified a recent comment in which Lee said Byrd would be gone "soon," saying it was a misunderstanding.
In a video posted to YouTube, a woman confronted Lee at the Meigs County Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday. The governor says Byrd will be gone from the Tennessee legislature “soon.”
“Will you get [Rep. David Byrd] out of the legislature right away,” she asks.
“That’s going to happen soon,” Lee responds.
But according to Lee's spokesperson, Laine Arnold, the governor misunderstood the line of questioning. The governor believed the woman was referring to the upcoming special session to remove Speaker Glen Casada from office.
Arnold said the Governor's position has not changed on representative Byrd.
The governor said in May that the state house of representatives will have to decide what it wants to do with Rep. Byrd. Though, he did say he found the words of one of Byrd's accusers credible.
Arnold said the woman from the video, who's identified on her Twitter handle as Anna Grabowski, is an activist and was shouting a number of questions at the governor as he entered an event Tuesday.
However, Grabowski said the questions on the video are the only ones she asked before entering the building.
She went on to press the governor about House Speaker Glen Casada, who’s expected to resign effective Aug. 2, following months of controversy.
In June, Lee called for a special session to elect a new House Speaker. However, advocates want Republicans to expel another one of their own – Rep. David Byrd, who's accused of sexual assault.
Byrd faces 30-year-old allegations that he sexually molested three girls he coached in high school basketball.
Activists with Enough is Enough Tennessee said they wish more politicians would start using stronger language against Byrd.
"What matters is the action, what matters is the end result," said Jennifer Watson. "Byrd is still in the legislature. It's still not a safe place for women and children and nobody is really willing to take a big stand. They're all saying words that they aren't really willing to back up with any action at all. You know, it's just mere suggestions rather than making definitive statements saying I don't support what David Byrd did, I don't think he deserves to be there and I think he should step down instead of saying, well, I hope you don't seek re-election."
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