Just hours after announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, claims of cover ups of sexual assault allegations have resurfaced against former Gov. Phil Bredesen, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the 2018 Senate seat being vacated by retiring incumbent Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
While two major national press organizations published major investigative stories that Bredesen has a “record of covering up sexual assault allegations,” the dominant local news media outlets in Tennessee, the newspapers that make up the USA Today-Tennessee group, apparently made no mention of it on Friday.
Bredesen is facing withering criticism over his handling of sexual assault investigations that were conducted of top officials in his administration while he was Governor of Tennessee, according to a Washington Free Beacon article on Friday, “Top Dem in Tennessee Senate Race Has Record of Covering Up Sexual Assault Allegations: As governor, Phil Bredesen’s office covered up details of harassment allegations against top officials,” which reported:
Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen, a top party recruit who announced his Senate campaign on Thursday morning, was criticized for hiding details of sexual assault investigations into his top officials during his tenure as the state’s governor.
The campaign announcement by Bredesen, who was Tennessee’s governor from 2003 through 2011, came just hours before Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) announced he would be resigning due to allegations of sexual misconduct and amid the ongoing examination of the way workplace harassment claims are handled in Congress.
That sort of examination already took place in Tennessee while Bredesen was governor. It found that Bredesen’s administration treated harassment allegations differently when they were directed at top political appointees, with investigators being directed to shred any documentation of the accusations.
The crucial takeaway is that investigations were handled differently when the accused was one of Bredesen’s top officials. When top officials were investigated, the documents and records of the investigation were shredded, but when others were investigated, the notes were not shredded.
The Daily Caller News Foundation added more details to the story late Friday, reporting:
Top Democratic Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen’s gubernatorial administration was investigated for concealing details of sexual harassment allegations against high ranking political appointees
Bredesen, who announced his Senate campaign Thursday, came under scrutiny in 2005 after state investigators shredded documents related to sexual harassment allegations brought against high-level administration officials. Bredesen justified the shredding on the basis that it was done to protect the identity of the victims.
The Tennessean, a Nashville-based daily, began investigating the office in 2005 after Bredesen’s senior adviser for legislation and policy, Mack Cooper, was suspended due to a workplace harassment claim. Reporters were unable to unearth any details about the claim because state investigators shredded all of their notes.
“There’s nothing to be covered up here,” Bredesen told the Associated Press. “I don’t have any way of proving that to you.”
Two separate investigations found that documents were only shredded when the accused was a top official in Bredesen’s administration, not in other cases.
“In a review last year of 602 workplace harassment case files across all levels of state government, the AP reported that documents were shredded only in high-profile cases,” the Associated Press reported.
Back in 2005, a dozen years ago, The Tennessean noted two separate cases where documents were shredded of investigations of top Bredesen administration officials, despite the investigator being aware that such records were subject to public records requests.
“It was the second time in a year that Personnel Department General Counsel Kae Carpenter shredded notes from a sexual harassment investigation of a high-ranking administration official,” The Tennessean reported back in 2005.
At the time, then-Gov. Bredesen urged Tennessee to close public access to the records of these investigations, citing victims’ privacy.
“Bredesen’s campaign did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for publication,” The Daily Caller News Foundation reported.
In an interview with The Tennessean, part of the USA Today-Tennessee, published late Friday afternoon, twelve years after the paper reported–briefly–on the cover ups, Bredesen was not asked about the reports of cover ups of sexual harassment during his administration.
Instead, he focused on the message he wants to present in his campaign.
“I’m not running against Donald Trump. I’m running to get things done here in Tennessee,” he said.
“I do not intend to be, if I’m elected, a loyal foot soldier who’s always voting for everything that the Democratic Party wants,” he added:
Nevertheless, Bredesen said he won’t turn down money from national Democratic groups, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is expected to pour money into Tennessee with Bredesen now the clear favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Nashville attorney James Mackler is also running in the Democratic primary.
When combining independent expenditures and campaign funds of candidates, Bredesen predicted he would need $50 million or more to compete. It would make the race easily the most expensive in Tennessee history, crushing the amount spent in the 2006 Senate race between now-GOP Sen. Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford Jr.
Perhaps surprisingly, Bredesen, a former Nashville mayor who has earned millions privately in the health care industry and helped bankroll some of his past campaigns, said he would not be contributing any personal money into his race. He said he doesn’t think it will be necessary.
“I think at this point, I’ve earned the right to go out and raise money,” he said, adding that people have already stepped up in wide numbers over the last 48 hours.
Bredesen’s fundraising strategy appears to be similar to that of 30-year-old Jon Ossoff, the liberal Democrat who lost a special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District to Karen Handel in June despite raising more than $30 million–almost all of it raised out-of-state from liberal strongholds like New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Neither the Knoxville News Sentinel nor the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the two other large newspapers in the state that are part of USA Today-Tennessee, appear to have reported Friday on cover ups of sexual harassment during his administration.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) is considered the front runner for the Republican nomination. Former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN-08) and Dr. Rolando Toyos are also vying for the GOP nomination.