Nashville Mayor Megan Barry dodged repeated questions at a televised press conference Wednesday night on whether her extra-marital affair with her chief bodyguard, a city employee, was hypocritical as a champion of women’s rights. She also seemed to acknowledge she only came out because the news was breaking.
“I am embarrassed and I am sad and I am sorry for all the pain I caused my family and his family, and I know that God will forgive me, but I know Nashville doesn’t have to,” Barry said. She added she hopes she can earn back people’s trust.
Earlier in the day, in an exclusive interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Barry insisted that she has not misused taxpayer funds as part of the relationship with Metro Police Sergeant Rob Forrest, NewsChannel 5’s Phill Williams reported on Wednesday.
Forrest resigned — the term being used is retirement after 31 years with the police department. Barry said he gave notice on Jan. 17.
During the press conference, Barry was asked more than once about the professional aspect of having an affair with a subordinate, especially in terms of women’s rights. The point was raised that if a man were in her position, he would be expected to resign. Instead, she as boss kept her job and her employee resigned. One reporter said she was “giving women’s rights a bad smell.”
Barry deflected the questions and said the Me Too Movement is about women who have been sexually harassed and discriminated against economically. Her affair is different because it involved two consenting adults, she said repeatedly.
“I didn’t stop being human when I became mayor,” she said more than once.
Barry was asked why she is talking now about the affair, which dates back to several months after the start of her term. She said rumors were swirling and would become public. “I needed to own it,” she said.
The mayor was asked if she could have asked Forrest to resign once the affair started.
“It was wrong, and I should have gone to the chief and I should have said what was happening,” she said.
Barry has racked up nearly double the out-of-town trips of her predecessor, Mayor Karl Dean, it was mentioned during the press conference. She has journeyed to both coasts of the U.S. and places in between. She also traveled to Athens, Greece — and Paris, the City of Lights, widely acknowledged as a romantic destination.
The mayor denies she and Forrest had the affair while he was on duty, being paid by taxpayers.
He averaged $34,000 a year in overtime for the last three years of former Mayor Karl Dean’s term, NewsChannel 5 reported.
But after Barry took office, Forrest’s overtime pay increased to just below $60,000 in fiscal year 2015-2016.
The next year, that increased to more than $75,000, bringing his total pay to $157,187 in fiscal year 2016-2017.
Barry justified having a police guard as a result of the department’s policy for protecting a mayor. She said her police detail only traveled on official trips, not family trips. Her globe-trotting business trips were made for conferences, transit planning and for the soccer stadium issue.
The mayor justified her extensive traveling as a result of her “aggressive schedule.” The schedule lines up with Forrest’s overtime, she said, and she promised she would turn over any records that were requested. She said she did nothing illegal.
Another question dealt with the expense of her trips versus the $2.4 million she wants to cut from Metro departments for a $13.2 million Nashville General Hospital bailout as well as plans to spend $9 billion on a transit plan. The word “hypocritical” was used in connection to Barry asking taxpayers and Metro government to give up billions while she spends time with a lover on the city payroll.
“What I did was wrong,” Barry responded. “I should not have had that affair.” She added that she would have traveled with someone on her security detail if not Forrest.
Barry would not say when or how the affair ended.
The mayor was asked about speculation she had planned to resign during the press conference. She said she will not resign. She said she plans to keep working on transit and her other agendas.
“This is not a tragedy, this is a mistake,” she said.
When asked how difficult pushing her agendas would be now, Barry said, “I have personal failings. I am only human.”