Ethics Complaint Filed Against Tennessee DA Over Anti-Muslim Remarks

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a formal complaint against Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott, who faced backlash after posting a series of anti-Muslim social media posts. Northcott stood by his remarks and refused to resign after the comments were made public.

CAIR filed the complaint on May 28 with the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. CAIR claimed that Northcott violated two rules under the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, the organization announced. In its complaint, CAIR noted that Northcott represents constituents who hold different beliefs than him.

“This overt anti-Muslim racism calls into serious question his ability to fairly represent this diverse constituency. Claiming that following Islam, a peaceful religion practiced by 1.6 billion, is ‘no different than being part of the KKK,’ a violent, racist hate group, is evidence that he cannot possibly act impartially,” CAIR wrote. “Mr. Northcott’s belief that all Muslims are evil precludes any hope for fairness.”

Northcott is accused of breaking rule 3.8, which stipulates prosecutors must “be impartial in the sense that charging decisions should be based upon evidence, without discrimination or bias for or against any groups or individuals.”

The complaint also alleges that Northcott violated rule 8.4(d), which states: “‘a lawyer who, in the course of representing a client, knowingly manifests, by words or conduct, bias or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status’ engages in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

CAIR previously called on Northcott to resign as Coffee County’s district attorney after he made comments on Facebook, in which he called Islam “evil, violent, and against God’s truth.” In a defiant statement posted on Facebook on May 18, Northcott refused to resign and stood by his Islamophobic remarks.

“Rest assured, I am not resigning. If they figured I would apologize for calling hate in any form evil, they miscalculated,” he wrote. “If they expect me to denounce my faith because of their tactics, they are going to be disappointed.”

CAIR had also asked the local Republican Party to repudiate Northcott’s statements. However, after Northcott’s post declining to resign, the Coffee County Republican Party (CCRP) issued a statement supporting the district attorney.

Richard Brooks, chairman of the CCRP, said he sent a letter to the executive committee of the Tennessee Republican Party about the “attack” on Northcott. “He is the subject of a political hit job by the group known as CAIR fueled by a biased media and out of context reporting,” Brooks said, according to The Tullahoma News.

Northcott did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment. In an email to The North Star, Brooks reiterated the party’s support for the district attorney. “The Coffee County Republican Party still stands by our elected District Attorney Craig Northcott and his 1st Amendment right to free speech,” he said.

CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw told The North Star that after Northcott refused to resign, the organization knew it needed to file an ethics complaint. McCaw said that the refusal to resign and the CCRP’s decision to support Northcott shows that anti-Muslim bigotry “is business as normal” for the district attorney and his party.

McCaw explained that the complaint will result in one of two ways: the board will rule against Northcott and either censure him or strip him of his role, or there will be “a public record that a bigot is serving in public office.” McCaw said that it was important for CAIR to bring to light Northcott’s “implicit bias” against Muslims in Tennessee. Calling for his resignation and filing an ethics complaint “creates the perfect paper trail to document his bigotry,” McCaw said. He added that this will follow Northcott until he leaves office.

According to a Gallup report from 2010, a majority of Americans from major religious groups believe that Americans are prejudiced against Muslims. The survey revealed that 66 percent of Jewish Americans and 60 percent of Muslims Americans believe that Americans are generally biased against Muslims. According to Gallup, Muslims were the most likely (48 percent) to experience racial or religious discrimination in the last year than Americans of other major religions.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.