Haslam discusses Cyntoia Brown clemency decision and possibility of leaving politics

Posted at 9:07 PM, Jan 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-16 22:16:43-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — One of Bill Haslam's final acts as Governor was granting clemency to Cyntoia Brown. Haslam discussed his thoughts on the case as well as his thoughts on leaving politics with NewsChannel 5's Rhori Johnston.

"What went into that decision?" Rhori asked.

"Any decision you look at with clemency or commutation is really hard because there's always lots to consider from what happened in the original crime to what's happened since then," said Haslam. "Nobody really wants us making a decision based on how many tweets go out about something or how many phone calls we get, so to set all that aside and not to treat her any better or any worse because of that."

During his eight years as governor, the political landscape in Tennessee has changed. Republicans now have a stronghold on the statehouse, but nationally, hyper-partisanship has become the norm after President Trump's contentious presidential victory.

"I think the bothersome part is we're divided and we're mad about it. I don't just disagree with you, I'm mad that you don't see things the way I do. And think what's gotten lost in there is the idea government's whole purpose is to solve problems," he said.

Haslam added, "Unfortunately, sometimes the yellers and the screamers get all the attention, but there's a boat load of people out there just saying I'm trying to take care of my family and then make my community a little bit better place, and that's what you run into most of the time."

Thoughtful answers that some might say sound like a man preparing to enter the fray, and run for United States Senate.

"Can I be most helpful in Washington trying to wrestle with some of the national issues or maybe stepping out of public life and it's both a personal and a vocational decision, if you will."

It's a decision, Haslam says, he'll make as soon as possible.

"I don't have a specific timeline, but I'm not gonna wait forever, just because for my own purposes if I'm going to do it, I want to get about it, if I'm not, I want to plan the rest of our life," Haslam explained. "I'm not thinking about a whole lot until I hand this baton to Bill Lee. And then second, Chrissy and I are gonna take some time off, it's really, I'm 60, and you have to decide kind of what's the best way to use the next decade of your life?"

The past decade -- and more -- have been spent in the public eye. For now, it's time for Bill Haslam to slow down, and reflect and that, he says, is an emotional process.

"You start thinking about the things that have happened, the people you've done it with, the battles won and lost and then the differences hopefully you've made and it gets to me every time."