GOP leader, who voted to expel Tennessee Three, resigns after past sexual harassment revealed

Republican Rep. Scotty Campbell violated the General Assembly’s policy on discrimination and harassment

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published April 21, 2023 1:49PM (EDT)

Tennessee State Capitol Building (David Underwood/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Tennessee State Capitol Building (David Underwood/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Republican Rep. Scotty Campbell of Tennessee, was recently found guilty of sexually harassing at least one legislative intern by a Tennessee House ethics subcommittee, according to a report from NewsChannel5 Nashville. The GOP leader resigned from the Tennessee General Assembly on Thursday around 6 hours after the local news organization questioned him about the sexual harassment allegations.

"I had consensual, adult conversations with two adults off-property," Campbell said, referencing a previously unknown second intern who filed a complaint against the representative. "I think conversations are consensual once that is verbally agreed to. If I choose to talk to any intern in the future, it will be recorded," he added.

The subcommitee, comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans, however, found that "Representative Campbell violated the Policy" against workplace harassment and discrimination, according to a March 29 memorandum sent to House Speaker Cameron Sexton. 

The memo continued, stating that "discrimination and harassment in any form will not be tolerated."

The Tennessee General Assembly's rules restrict the subcommittee's actions, however, allowing it to only place the memorandum in Campbell's file and preventing them from publicly discussing their proceedings.

Thousands of dollars were also reportedly spent on protections for one of the interns, including relocating her form the apartment building that she and Campbell both lived in, placing her in a hotel for the remainder of her internship and shipping her furniture home to a different part of the state.

The exact number is confidential, legistlative officials said.

Though the interns did not provide public comments on the matter, NewsChannel5 Nashville received an email one of the women sent to university officials detailing her experiences with the East Tennessee representative from her family member.

In the email, she described the comments Campbell made about her and another intern after seeing them enter the apartment building: "[He] made comments about how ... he was in his apartment imagining that we were performing sexual acts on one another and how it drove him crazy knowing that was happening so close to him."

"I uncomfortably explained that that was not happening, and he insisted that he knew it was and asked me to tell him about it," she wrote, adding that she explained the other intern, who is believed to be the second person to complain, is just her friend.

The former vice chair of the House Republican Caucus made several other disturbing comments to the intern on another occasion, according to the email, saying that he wished "he had someone with whom he could just cuddle," asking how many men she'd slept with, offering her cannabis gummies to see her tattoos and piercings, and repeatedly asking for hugs.

"I told him zero, and he insisted that I was lying and told me not to lie. He then proceeded to ask how many women I've slept with and said he bets girls go crazy over me," the intern wrote. "I was getting progressively more afraid and uncomfortable. He then reached out his hand towards me and grabbed me around my neck," she continued, explaining what happened after she denied the hugs. "I recoiled and said I felt sick and immediately left. That was the last night I ever spoke with or saw him. I blocked his number after that."

The intern reported the incident to the legislative officials days afterward and was "informed that Rep. Campbell admitted fully to his guilt," according to the email.

When questioned by the investigative news team, Campbell denied all of the claims.

"Again, I had consensual conversations that were agreed to, and I'm really surprised that we are here this morning," he said.

Campbell, who recently voted to expel three Democrats protesting gun violence on the House floor, garnered national media attention earlier this year during a debate over a bill banning public drag shows. The GOP leader reportedly asked if the legislation would also ban a "bra-and-panties match" by wrestlers at a county fair.

This news breaks weeks after a viral clip of Rep. Justin Jones, a member of the Tennessee Three, calling out fellow House members who were involved in crimes and investigations did not face expulsion during a speech given prior to his own.

"One member sits in this chamber who was found guilty of domestic violence — no expulsion. We had a former speaker sit in this chamber who is now under federal investigation — no expulsion," Jones said in the clip.

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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