Several reporters from The Tennessean and other politically aligned media outlets in Tennessee descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday to “bull rush” Republican legislators into embracing their efforts to force State Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) from the legislature.
The Tennessean has led an effort to force Byrd from the Legislature for more than a year, despite the fact that there have been no allegations of misconduct during his time in office, nor any charges (much less conviction) for any past conduct. After the allegations from three former players were reported in 2018 by WSMV Channel 4 in Nashville, related to their unsubstantiated claims of inappropriate behavior by their former coach more than 30 years ago, Byrd was re-elected by a more than fifty-five point margin.
Under the guise of a “poll,” reporters questioned several legislators with virtually identical questions as to whether Byrd should resign or be forced out; whether he should be removed from the Education Sub-Committee Chairmanship; whether they were aware that one of the accusers met with Governor Bill Lee; and whether or not the issue is a distraction to the legislators.
Several legislators told The Tennessee Star that the fact that his community, who knew of the allegations and know both the accusers and Rep. Byrd, re-elected him by a huge margin indicates that his constituents have faith in him and that the efforts of a partisan-driven media shouldn’t override their judgment. One legislator specifically said that “the only distraction is the media’s fake news political agenda being more important to them than their attempts to cover the serious legislation that is being considered and is ignored by these same reporters.”
State Representative Debra Moody (R-Covington) said: “We are here trying to conduct the people’s business in a timely and effective manner. When certain media outlets focus on their personal political agenda rather than reporting news they are the ones causing distractions for our Members.”
State Rep. Mark Hall (R-Cleveland) pointed out that the citizens of the 71st District sent David Byrd back to the Legislature by an overwhelming margin. “It is clearly their desire for him to serve as their voice in the Tennessee General Assembly, and we should respect their decision.”
Another legislator, State Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) was even more direct. “When his District, after these decades-old claims were put out there, re-elect him with over 80 percent of their votes — that is a resounding ‘yes’ that the people believe in David. The Tennessean should accept that, shut up and move on. The fact the media continues to push this issue shows clear bias.”
Several staffers who did not want to be identified noted that The Tennessean waged a campaign against former State Rep. Jeremy Durham without any complaint ever being filed or an opportunity for him to confront the anonymous witnesses who made unverified allegations, and now appear to be seeking to do the same thing to David Byrd. “Now they are doing essentially the same thing…no proof, no allegations of ANY misconduct while he has served in the legislature, and clearly driven by a partisan political agenda. It is certainly not legitimate journalism,” one said.
Byrd has said he has no intentions of resigning and numerous legislators indicated today that they do not see any basis to remove him from his sub-Committee Chairmanship, much less the Legislature.