Tennessee State House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) recently said that she is working on a ‘culture change’ since covering up the sexual harassment claims surrounding Rep. Jeremey Durham (R-Franklin). Tennesseans don’t see a change when she goes from covering up sexual harassment to holding secret meetings with her newly appointed sexual harassment advisory committee. It begs the questions, what were they hiding in that meeting?
Speaker Harwell also insisted that the first time she found out about the sexual harassment rumors at the Legislative Plaza was when the Tennessean printed their story on January 24th. But we know for a fact that she at least knew something when she sent Rep. Durham to human resources to be spoken to about ‘appropriate behavior’.
So we must ask:
-What did the Speaker and the other Republican leaders know and when did they know it?
-Why didn’t the Speaker follow the existing sexual harassment policy and launch an investigation into these very serious allegations when she first heard about them?
-The media has confirmed that the Speaker knew about an allegation of sexual harassment by one woman – did she talk to her and then report it? If not, why?
Obviously her priorities are out of order. As more information has come to light the past few weeks, it is clear that she has repeatedly taken the smallest steps possible fix the problems and instead has covered up the story and protected her own political future as well as the reputation of the Republican Party. She seems far less concerned about the toxic work environment that she has let develop because of Rep. Durham’s behavior than she is with her political reputation.
Instead of immediately holding her own members accountable for their bad behavior, she thinks it’s "good policy" to punish the very interns who a certain Republican House member has placed at ricks.
Sadly, Speaker Harwell and the Republican leaders have done everything in their power to protect their own interest and the Republican Party at the cost of the victims of sexual harassment.