Rep. Staples says sexual harassment allegation used 'for political character assassination'

Posted at 6:08 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 21:06:54-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Knoxville Democrat Representative Rick Staples was accused of sexual harassment.

Members of the Democratic caucus told NewsChannel 5 they are taking the allegations seriously.

According to reports, a woman stated that it happened at the state legislature.

Representative Staples was present for the house floor session Thursday. He briefly spoke to reporters and says he's not under investigation, even though the accusations of misconduct recently surfaced.

"In today's social climate, verbage or actions can be misinterpreted. If currently or in the past I've had any words or actions that have been misinterpreted, that is due an apology and I submit that apology. it also deserves a humble 'I'm sorry' and I do yield that 'I'm sorry.' I look forward to being a servant to my community and the citizens of Tennessee," said Staples. "Unfortunately, this is being used as a tool and an avenue for political character assassination. I will move forward from this, and once again I will move forward with the knowledge and understanding that we can be misinterpreted. I will use this knowledge to move forward to protect my character and show honor to my family, my supporters and the citizens that have elected me. I have no further comments at this time."

Lawmakers throughout the legislature also refused to comment, saying the accusation is something they can't comment on. Speaker Glen Casada said his office can't speak about it because state policy prevents them from doing so.

However, Representative Cameron Sexton says the issue has been passed over to the ethics committee, and the chair of the democratic caucus said the allegations are being taken very seriously.

"We believe that it's very important that this be an area that people can work in, feeling comfortable and that anything that is raised is fully investigated. So, there's no question that there's been a full accounting, a full evaluation that all evidence is considered, etc.," said Rep. Mike Stewart.

Stewart says if an investigation is done, the results would eventually be made available to the public.