Nashville Feminists and the Downfall of TN State Rep. Jeremy Durham
Last April I covered a feminist protest in Nashville’s legislative building calling for State Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) to resign behind allegations of sexual assault from three young female interns. In the protest’s immediate aftermath, which drew considerable media coverage, Durham attempted to grandstand his way out of the frying pan by blaming his plight on the protesters, telling the Franklin Homepage:
Although I fully support freedom of speech, I’m disappointed that these young liberals would turn a serious matter into political grandstanding and minimize the weight of this important issue for those who have truly been harassed in the workplace,” Durham said. “I realize we live in a politically correct society, but making a false accusation when there was never even a complaint filed is extremely unfair.
Durham’s insinuation was that sexual harassment and assault were somehow partisan issues. At the time I noted that, as an eyewitness to the protest, there was no “liberal” political grandstanding. The protest was rooted in issues-based activism, which seemed increasingly relevant due to April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Just over 24 hours after the protest ended, the state Attorney General’s probe into Durham’s behavior uncovered “inappropriate physical contact.”
House Speaker Beth Harwell banished Rep. Jeremy Durham to a new office building and limited his access to staff after a scathing Tennessee attorney general report found the Franklin Republican engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially poses a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.”
“Based upon the information gathered thus far, Representative Durham’s alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a letter to House officials.
In accordance with the attorney general’s findings, Harwell, R-Nashville, is limiting Durham’s access to certain legislative buildings — including moving his office across the street — and he has been barred from having contact with almost all staff or interns as the investigation continues.
Three months later, the AG released a report stating that Durham engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with 22 women. Things haven’t exactly gone well for him since. In August, federal prosecutors opened an investigation into Durham’s campaign expenditures by issuing subpoenas for records related to campaign finance and tax violations. Then days after a $191,000 discrepancy was discovered between his election finance reports and bank records, Durham (also a lawyer) shuttered his real estate title company, Battleground Title & Escrow.
But in September, Jeremy Durham made Tennessee history by being the first state representative to be expelled from the legislature for alleged sexual misconduct. In what the Tennesssean described as “an historic move by state lawmakers,” he was officially ousted as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives during a special legislative session.
Republicans and Democrats joined together to remove the 32-year-old Franklin Republican, voting 70-2 to cast Durham out after more than an hour of discussion to approve the first legislative expulsion since 1980, and only the second since the Civil War. The House needed 66 votes to remove him.
Immediately after the vote, Durham’s name was removed from his desk on the House floor and his name was removed from the legislative website. He is no longer eligible to receive a state pension, having not served enough time in the House.
Now with his legislative career at an end, Durham found his legal career in jeopardy almost immediately thereafter. The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, the state agency charged with disciplining lawyers, started investigating possible “trust account violations” and the possibility of misusing client money.
Just a week later, the hits kept on coming for the ex-lawmaker. Literally.
Jeremy Durham hit a University of Florida fan in the face during the University of Tennessee’s football game Saturday, resulting in the Franklin Republican being escorted out of Neyland Stadium by law enforcement.
There are no official details about what happened, but several witnesses confirmed an officer approached Durham and asked him to leave. The recently expelled lawmaker complied and was escorted out of the stands by a Blount County sheriff’s deputy.
A Tennessee fan who saw what happened said Durham was sitting with his wife and state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a longtime friend of Durham. The Tennessee fan said a particularly boisterous Florida fan was yelling loudly, and at one point Durham responded to the yells. The Florida fan started yelling at Durham. Once the Florida fan yelled at Durham, the Tennessee fan said, Durham turned around and hit the man in the face.
It’s safe to say that September 2016 was a low point for Jeremy Durham. But he couldn’t even make it to 2017 without another anvil landing on his head.
The subpoena also indicated the investigation involves possible bribery charges.
There are clues as to what federal investigators may be looking for: Connections between Durham, a different person who admitted to rape and child porn charges and a wealthy campaign donor; allegations from lobbyists made during the Tennessee attorney general’s investigation; and Durham’s relationship with a high-profile Republican donor.
Somehow it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that a supreme creep like Durham has connections to an admitted rapist. And being under yet another federal investigation was a fitting end for his 2016 and a promising start to ensure that his 2017 is just as awful. To think that all of this snowballed from the “grandstanding” actions of “young liberals” bringing attention to such “a serious matter.” I know, Mr. Durham, it’s “extremely unfair.”