Following reports that Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s chief of staff sent sexually explicit text messages to an intern and a lobbyist, used cocaine in the legislative office building and sent texts disparaging African Americans, the embattled staffer tendered his resignation on Monday.
Cade Cothren, 32, confirmed his departure to USA Today.
Cothren had initially resisted calls to resign following a NewsChannel 5 report last week that claimed he had written text messages in which he’d referred to black people as “idiots” and NFL player Jameis Winston as a “thug n****r.” Cothren also allegedly sent an offensive “black people” meme to Casada, a veteran Republican lawmaker who was sworn in as House Speaker in January:
The NewsChannel 5 investigation also revealed that Cothren had snorted cocaine in his legislative offices between 2015 and 2016 when he was the press secretary for the Tennessee House Republican Caucus. Earlier on Monday, Cothren admitted to the drug-taking as well as sending “some” of the racist text messages.
At the time, however, Cothren did not appear ready to resign. Both he and Casada characterized his earlier actions as mistakes made by a misguided young man. Cothren described himself as having been “immature” and “stupid,” and Casada stood by his chief of staff, telling NewsChannel 5 that Cothren had confided in him several years ago that “he was dealing with some personal issues.”
“I choose to believe that we all deserve a shot at redemption. I gave Mr. Cothren this chance to prove himself, and that’s exactly what he has done,” Casada said.
According to the USA Today report, Cothren sent text messages in 2015 to an intern that solicited oral sex and naked photos. He allegedly made sexual advances towards a married lobbyist and suggested in other text messages that he would “keep hitting on” a different intern “just to see what happens.”
He also allegedly exchanged sexually charged comments about women with Casada; one referred to a woman as a “cunt” and another described police officers who gave him parking tickets as “rent a cop cocksuckers.”
In announcing his resignation, Cothren told USA Today that he believed the “best thing … to do is step down” so state Republicans could focus on their work.
“Republicans in the House and Senate accomplished a plethora of great things this year,” Cothren said. “We have a hell of a leadership team in both chambers and in the governor’s office, and I couldn’t be more proud to have worked with them in 2019.”
Casada, who represents Tennessee’s District 63, previously served as the majority leader of the state House. No stranger to controversy, he came under fire earlier this year for defending a Republican colleague who was accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls.
In a statement of his own, Casada thanked Cothren for his service.
Tennessee House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R) said he was “shocked and disappointed” at the allegations, WZTV reported.
Democratic lawmakers in the state have called for Casada himself to step down:
State representative and Nashville mayoral candidate John Ray Clemmons (D) said he stood “ready to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for a special session to remove Glen Casada … if he refuses to resign.”