Tennessee House Speaker Under Pressure to Resign Amid Drug and Sexting Scandal

Tennessee House Democrats have called for House Speaker Glen Casada to resign amid a developing drug and sex scandal involving his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren.

Cothren resigned on May 6 after confirming that he used cocaine in the legislative office building, and text messages showed that he solicited sex from an intern and a lobbyist. Cothren also reportedly sent racist text messages and had a lewd exchange with Casada about one of Cothren’s female friends. In a statement to The North Star, House Democrats said that it was clear that Casada “participated in numerous acts that make his continued service as Speaker untenable.”

“Citizens of the state of Tennessee deserve to have a speaker that they can trust; whose character and moral standards are beyond reproach,” Democratic House Minority Leader Karen Camper said in a statement to The North Star. “The actions of our speaker are unbecoming and disrespectful, not only to the citizens of our state, but to the office he holds.”

Casada defended the lewd exchange during a radio interview with WWTN-FM host Brian Wilson on May 7, WTVF reported. The Speaker said that the conversation with his former staff member was just “locker room talk” and did not represent his current views about women.

The lewd text messages between Casada and Cothren occurred in 2016 but were made public on May 6. According to WTVF, Cothren texted a photo of a female friend pole dancing to Casada. During the exchange, Casada asked his staffer if he could “touch” the woman. Cothren was press secretary for the Tennessee House Republican Caucus at the time of the exchange. “I am not proud of that,” Casada told WWTN-FM.

“I’m embarrassed about that. In the last couple of years, I have come to realize… I can’t do this and it is not appropriate behavior,” he continued. “So, yes, I participated in locker room talk with two adult men that was not intended to go to anyone else, and I was wrong. In the last several years that kind of talk has not entered and left my mouth.”

Casada said he “got caught up in the moment at that time and...that is not me today.” Casada’s office did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.

When NewsChannel 5 Investigates first published the racist text messages, Casada accused the TV news station of airing fabricated messages. He did not question the authenticity of the texts during his recent interview.

Caucus Chair Mike Stewart said in a statement that Casada’s “actions are obviously disqualifying and he must either resign or be removed.” Casada’s mea culpa came a day after Cothren admitted to using cocaine and other drugs before becoming chief of staff. Cothren told the Tennessean that he was no longer using illegal substances.

“No doubt, I’ve done things I regret and I just ask that people can forgive past actions and let me prove to them that the person I was in the past is not the person I am today,” Cothren said. “I was young, immature, stupid.”

Cothren claimed he began abusing drugs and alcohol as a “coping mechanism” to deal with the pressures of working in politics. The former Republican staffer also admitted to sending the offensive test messages in a joint statement to NewsChannel 5 Investigates with Casada.

In the statement, Casada said that Cothren had come to him “nearly three years ago” and confessed to dealing with personal issues and sought help when “his struggles became apparent.” The House Speaker said that he chose to give Cothren a chance to prove himself “and that’s exactly what he has done.”

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.