GOP Senate Candidates Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi Disagree with Gov. Lee’s Refugee Decision



The two leading contenders for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) disagree with Gov. Bill Lee’s controversial decision on Wednesday to allow refugees to resettle in Tennessee.

“I have complete and total respect for Governor Lee, but when it comes to this issue, we do not agree,” former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty told The Tennessee Star in a statement released by his campaign on Wednesday.

Dr. Manny Sethi, a Vanderbilt emergency room surgeon, issued a statement to The Star on Wednesday.

“I am grateful for President Trump and Vice President Pence’s commitment to Christian refugees fleeing religious persecution. I understand the Governor’s desire to lend a hand to Christian refugees fleeing radical Islamic persecution, but I disagree with the decision,” Sethi said in the statement.

“It’s imperative that we know who is entering our country and why. As Senator, I’ll work to increase vetting standards for refugees. Washington has failed at that for decades, and if we don’t get it right, it will have tragic consequences,” he added.

As The Tennessee Star reported Wednesday, Lee announced the state will not stop resettling refugees, even though Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Republican Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton said they disagree.

Lee had this power, per an executive order from U.S. Republican President Donald Trump. Trump issued an executive order in September that asked states and cities to consent in writing if they want to continue refugee resettlements.

Lee released a statement explaining his reasons.

“The United States and Tennessee have always been … a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution,” Lee said in a statement.

“My administration has worked extensively to determine the best outcome for Tennessee, and I will consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.”

Left wing groups, like The Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) have lobbied Gov. Lee aggressively to announce in favor of allowing more refugees to be resettled in the state. That resettlement is done initially at the expense of the federal government. Some refugees receive an eight month federal subsidy for Refugee Medical Assistance and Refugee Cash Assistance. However, refugees who are eligible for TANF and/or TennCare do not get the eight month federal subsidy for Refugee Medical Assistance or Refugee Cash Assistance. Those expenses are borne by Tennessee taxpayers.

but after eight months the costs of social welfare benefits and education are borne by the taxpayers of the state of Tennessee.

The refugee resettlement program in Tennessee is managed by an arm of Catholic Charities, one of the federally approved Voluntary Agencies (VOLAGs) paid by the federal government to resettle refugees.

As reported in September, Sethi said if he replaces Alexander then his medical background gives him the skill set he needs to do something a lot of U.S. senators cannot —  get his policies enacted into law.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Manny Sethi” by Vanderbilt Health. 






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20 Thoughts to “GOP Senate Candidates Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi Disagree with Gov. Lee’s Refugee Decision”

  1. […] Also as reported, the two leading contenders for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) disagree with Lee’s  decision. […]

  2. […] as reported, the two leading contenders for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring […]

  3. Barbara Allen

    Gov. Bill Lee,
    Please re-think your stand with bringing more refugees into the state of Tennessee under the “religious persecution”. This time it is Christian, but next time it may be a far different religion. Don’t put your desire to “help others” onto your citizens of Tennessee.

  4. Russell Barnes

    Lee gets a “NO” vote from me the next time. I have no problem taking in people who want to work to live in OUR country, but I DO NOT accept refugees, no matter where they are from. My father’s parents came here in the early 20th century and were CONFINED at Ellis Island until they demonstrated good health, positive interest in being here and a willingness to accept our language and policies. Today’s refugees try to turn OUR country into their slums with an attitude that now that they are here they are entitled to the free stuff.

  5. Ron Welch

    Thanks Stuart.

    I also supported and voted for Diane Black and supported State Senator, Mae Beavers, who had impeccable Constitutional conservative credentials, as my number one choice for Govenor before she was forced to end her candidacy for family reasons.

    You give good reasons to not vote for Hagerty. And I had heard that he was not always a Trump supporter, which your statement about him seems to corroborate, but is expressing support now that he is running for Senate. I know that Manny Sethi does support Trump.

    So we have two “no record” candidates for Senate as far as elected office. I personally know Manny Sethi, so I have had first hand opportunity to ascertain his Constitutional conservative credentials. He was also present at the annual picnic meeting of Tennessee Firearms Assoc, of which I am a member, and spoke there before the very strong Constitutionalist organization. Hagerty was a no show. Perhaps he had previous obligations. Any candidate who supports any more restrictive gun laws AGAINST THE PEOPLE is NOT a Constitutional conservative since such usually violate, not only the 2nd Amendment, but the 4th, 5th and 10th Amendments!

    Both candidates have expressed support for the Trump agenda, do that’s good. But much more importantly, I want a candidate who will CONSERVE the Constitution as it is written, understood and obeyed by the rules of English grammar in its historical context.. Anyone who can’t or won’t do that has NO BUSINESS serving UNDER THE DELEGATED POWERS of a free and self governing People!

    May the best man win.

  6. Ralph

    If Governor Lee cared about persecuted Christians, he would have held fast with President Trump’s statement before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018: that the most compassionate gesture is to provide refuge to people in a land closest to their original homeland and, in that process, have the resources needed to provide refuge for 5, 10, even 100’s of others who would not otherwise be provided refuge, so that 1 can come to the United States, or other western country…and never leave.

    So what Gov. Lee has done, in fact, is condemn persecuted Christians, those 5, 10, or even 100’s who will not be provided refuge so that 1 can come here and bask in the freedom of Tennessee. Bad move – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    No, the sad truth is that this was a political move and one that just cost him more than this vote, but also support to the GOP in general. The support I had lent to his campaign and to his administration just got wholly redirected to identifying an independent candidate – organized parties like the GOP are beyond redemption. Way beyond.

    So what next? “Common sense” gun control would be my guess or maybe expanding Medicaid, that’s always a great vote getter there.

    Now, I still maintain he was the best option available, head and shoulders above DC Diane and Made In China Randy, but that’s a pretty low standard. In this instance he was sadly mistaken and he miscalculated the damage he has done to his base.

    1. Stuart I. Anderson

      “DC Diane” – what the heck does that even mean? DC is where the U.S. Congress meets and that’s where Diane, as a congressman, cast her votes which resulted in her compiling a lifetime Heritage score of 77% – not great but not bad either. So instead of voting for someone with at least a tepid conservative record you took a shot in the dark with Lee who had no interest in politics and no record because you were suckered in by Chris Devaney’s flimflam.

      That error has now caused you frustration so instead of directing your wealth and efforts to making the Republican Party more conservative, something that has a chance of success, you now want to travel along the dead-end road of independent politics which has no chance of success whatsoever in any first-past-the-post system of elections. I hate to see any conservative waste his time and efforts because frankly there aren’t enough of us to begin with. Please Ralph think again!

  7. William R. Delzell

    This is one of the few times that I have to AGREE with Governor Lee. I praise him for doing the right thing on this issue. (Most of the time, I feel he has done the wrong thing on other issues). It took courage to go against the Tea Party Wing of the G.O.P. This was not an easy decision by the governor. Sometimes, however, a true leader has to risk popularity to follow the dictates of his or her conscience. I am glad to see that Lee actually has a conscience on this particular issue.

    Does this mean that I have become a Lee convert? Not likely as I have several differences with him on most other issues. I felt the same way often about former Senator Baker, Jr. whose record was usually too conservative for me. However, I backed Baker up whenever he broke ranks with the Right to support renewal in 1981 of the Voting Rights Act in defiance of Reagan and his fellow xenophobes and the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty just to mention a few times when he occasionally showed courage to jeopardize his career to do the right thing.

  8. C. Richard Archie

    Let the millionaire Lee provide housing and sustenance on his palatial estate, the State is already taking more from me than I can afford, and providing no protection in the balance.

  9. Rick

    Lee contributed to Berry, enough said. He needs to get on board a bus leaving town and do not come back, what a loser.

  10. Horatio Bunce

    Welcome to Tyson Foods Coyote-ville courtesy of Catholic Charities, dumped in Nashville or Clarksville and coming soon to a neighborhood near you. These aren’t Christians fleeing persecution. Christians don’t build mosques in Murfreesboro. They don’t demand Muslim accommodations in the workplace and school. They may be fleeing the last place our military invaded without a constitutional declaration of war by Congress (again), but they aren’t fleeing religious persecution for holding Christian beliefs.

    And just how do these folks plan to “vet” refugees? With their face-recognition, biometric data, REAL-ID driver license I guess? What kind of “background” checks did you get from Somalia with no functioning government? How about those “moderate” Muslims that McCain/Kinzinger/McMullen were meeting with (including Al Baghdadi) and giving U.S. arms to wer e and still are ISIS? The federal government frankly sucks at this and should not be trusted to “vet” refugees. It can’t be done.

  11. patrick pile

    Gov. Bill Lee is a fake Republican. He is giving FREE everything to people ALL around the world, while turning a blind eye to the rural areas of Tennessee. How many Hospitals are now closed in Tennessee ? How many drug overdose deaths ? How many jobs GONE ? I voted for the first time Trump, and I DID NOT vote for a democrat governor , but that is exactly what WE have in Tennessee.

  12. Mary

    Lee should be ashamed of himself. I will no longer support this traitor.

  13. Laura Kelso

    Gov. Lee is very misinformed regarding the Refugee Resettlement Program and its social and economic impact on Tennessee. This generation of refugees do not assimilate and cause great cultural and economic harm to our state. The Office of Refugee Resettlement , The State Department and UNHCR have promoted the migration from third world countries relentlessly and convinced NGO’s to partner with churches to support and welcome the migrants. This policy is a failure and what we see are unassimilated ghettos developing and our schools being taxed beyond capacity along with the financial burden falling on our cities after the ORR Grant monies are exhausted in 180 days. The refugee migrant issue is a globalist strategy to drive the U.S. into the dust culturally and economically and Tennesseans have seen the results of this diabolical policy and rejected the program.

  14. patrick pile

    Bill Lee has proven he IS NOT republican…and most Certainly not a leader for Tennessee, …while the rural areas are decimated with the drug epidemic , and the loss of MANY rural hospitals, and jobs. Gov. Bill Lee will offer people from around the world. Free housing, free job training, free healthcare, and many, many free social services. I vote for a fake republican ? Bill Lee you can go to hell.

  15. Julie

    So Lee can be influenced by special interest groups or is he a RINO? He was not voted into office by the majority of Tennesseans to enact left wing policies.

  16. Stuart I. Anderson

    Before the 2018 gubernatorial election I begged my fellow conservatives not to vote for No Record Candidate Bill Lee. Unfortunately, Bill Lee was elected with 37% of the vote with a significant amount of conservative support. Chris Devaney created a slick quasi-conservative political persona for Lee who hitherto had never shown the slightest interest in politics and all too many of you fell for it. Now Devaney is trying to do the same thing in 2020 regarding No Record Candidate Chairman Manny. Hopefully conservative voters who supported Lee “. . .WON’T BE FOOLED AGAIN!!!!”

    1. Ron Welch

      Stuart, who did you endorse in the gubernatorial race and who is the conservative candidate of record in the Senate race?

      1. Stuart I. Anderson

        I pounded the table for Diane Black (Heritage- 77%) as the only choice for conservatives. Lee was a No Record Candidate, Randy(!) was out of the question, and Beth had no real chance and was found hiding in the tall grass too often in the General Assembly. Diane was a proven tepid conservative so she should have received conservative votes.

        The current Senate race presents a Hobson’s choice for conservatives because we will have no proven solid conservative to support. Bill Hagerty has a long history of supporting establishment centrist Republicans. He’s straight out of establishment central casting – the type of Republican I usually take great pleasure voting against but he is a Trump guy so with Trump’s reelection we will probably get at least four years of reasonably conservative voting from him in the Senate.

        Many Sethi (“Chairman Manny” commemorating his “insider” Chairmansip of the 2016 Statemen’s Dinner) is coming to us with a record of being a hanger-on to the Republican establishment in Tennesee – buddies with moderate chairmen of the TN Republican Party, Never Trumper Bill Frist is his mentor, etc. but NO connection whatsoever with the conservative movement in this state . Now making his first foray seeking public office, and nothing less than U. S. Senate will do, playacting as a table pounding conservative.

        As far as I’m concerned what conservatives can do this election is to teach plutocrats who want to barge into politics at the highest levels as some fierce fire-breathing conservative that you better at least show up with a long record of financial support of conservative causes and candidates to make up for your being a No Record Candidate having never held political office. We can achieve this by voting AGAINST Chairman Manny by voting for Hagerty.

    2. 83ragtop50

      Stuart – Right on. I shouted this to the rooftops but it seemed that not many were really attuned to the real Bill Lee. He may be a nice guy but he surely is not the conservative that he pretended to be to get elected. Look who he appointed to head up the state education – a dyed in the wool liberal. That said it all.