Back when we were writing about the three members expelled from the Tennessee state House I mentioned that it seemed like half the GOP members I looked into (either leadership or members who had run-ins with Pearson and Jones) seemed to have one scandal or another in their background. It seemed like a predictable consequence of the unbreakable hold Republicans have over the chamber: no accountability.
Well, there’s more.
Yesterday news broke that the now former vice chair of the House Republican Caucus, Rep. Scotty Campbell, had serially harassed two teen interns working for the state House. The harassment included repeated and unwanted overtures in which Campbell told one 19-year-old intern who apparently lived in the same apartment complex that he fantasized about her imagined sexual encounters with other men and women, including his fantasies or claims that she was having sex with another 19-year-old female intern. In other words, totally over the top, over the line and basically insane. Here’s part of the local reporter’s account.
For example, after seeing her and another 19-year-old female intern entering her apartment at the nearby Capitol Towers, the woman describes how Campbell later “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,” she recounts, “and he insisted that he knew it was and asked me to tell him about it.
Another incident escalated to unwanted touching …
The woman’s email says Campbell repeatedly made comments about wishing “he had someone with whom he could just cuddle” and how “he is very, very lonely.”
On March 15, the victim recalls, she went to his apartment to return a wrench that she had borrowed.
“He proceeded to ask how many men I’ve slept with,” says the email to university officials.
“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.”
Then, the victim says, Campbell offered to give her cannabis gummies to see her tattoos and piercings.
“I told him absolutely not, and he begged me for several hugs,” her email says.
“I was getting progressively more afraid and uncomfortable. He then reached out his hand towards me and grabbed me around my neck.
“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.”
Campbell at first denied the allegations. Then he insisted the conversations were consensual. Then he resigned. All in about six hours.
So, okay, another small-time sleaze ball rep. gets exposed and gets bounced. Big surprise. But this connects to the earlier expulsions story in a more direct way. These aren’t just accusations. A House ethics committee had already found that Campbell had violated House harassment rules. In fact, the House had to pay for one of the interns to be relocated from the apartment complex to a hotel for the remainder of her internship and her furniture shipped home to another part of the state — all to protect her from Campbell and, presumably, to ward off future legal liability.
And here’s the key: the confidential memo in which this finding was announced is dated March 29, 2023. That is one day before the Capitol protests, joined by the three representatives, Johnson, Jones and Pearson, which later resulted in the expulsion of Jones and Pearson. For whatever reason, under Tennessee law, the findings of the ethics committee are not made public. A vaguely worded letter is placed in Campbell’s file. It’s not clear to me whether that file is off limits to the public or whether it’s just that no announcement is made so no one would know to look for it. Either way, the document (which you see in the linked article above) only says that Campbell violated the harassment policy. It includes no details beyond that.
Campbell not only remained in office with no official reprimand or publicity or consequences beyond the existence of that letter. He voted to expel the lawmakers four days later. Indeed, he was part of the House leadership which organized the process!