Tennessee state Rep. Jeremy Durham (R) resigned from his position as majority whip on Sunday hours after a report in The Tennessean revealed that he had sent “inappropriate” text messages to numerous women who worked in the statehouse.
Three women, at least two of whom were in their 20s, said that the 32-year-old married lawmaker had sent them text messages asking for photos and asking to meet up at bars.
One woman said he sent her repeated Facebook and text messages late at night. In one text he told her he missed her. In another late-night message he asked for photos, according to The Tennessean.
Another woman received numerous text messages from Durham, one of which asked her for pictures.
“For me, I was just trying to engage professionally, from one professional to another. And he crossed the line: You don’t text and constantly message on Facebook and ask to meet up at bars in the evening,” one of the women told The Tennessean.
Durham initially said that he did not recall sending messages to the women and said that nobody had filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.
“Not having seen the texts, not knowing who the other party to the conversation is, when they were sent, what exactly they say, whether I was responding or initiating the text stream, it is simply impossible to respond,” he told The Tennessean in an email on Friday.
However, state Rep. David Alexander (R) said that a woman told him about the text messages from Durham earlier in January, according to The Tennessean.
“The words she used were sexual harassment,” Alexander said.
The lawmaker told The Tennessean that he referred the woman to a human resources employee.
Republican lawmakers had planned on discussing Durham’s behavior at a Jan. 12 caucus meeting, but did not make it to a discussion about the text messages because a vote to suspend the rules failed, according to The Tennessean.
The news about Durham’s text messages was not public yet, but lawmakers had also planned on discussing other issues surrounding Durham. He had written a reference letter for a youth pastor who had pleaded guilty to statutory rape and possessing child pornography in 2014. And in 2013, the lawmaker allegedly tried to fill an outdated prescription. It appeared that someone has written over the date to say ‘2013’ instead of ‘2012′ on the prescription, according to The Tennessean.
After The Tennessean published its report on his text messages, Durham, who is married, announced on Sunday evening that he would resign from his leadership position, after confusion earlier in the afternoon about his decision.
“In accordance with our House Republican Caucus bylaws, I have received and accepted the resignation of Representative Jeremy Durham as House Majority Whip. I believe he has made a good decision to prevent this issue from continuing to be a distraction to our Caucus,” House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
But shortly thereafter, Durham told The Tennessean that he had not yet made up his mind. He then announced a couple hours later that he would step down form his position as majority whip.
“I appreciate the support shown for me by my colleagues during the recent Caucus meeting that resulted in me retaining my position as Majority Whip,” Durham said in his statement. “However, it is clear that the relentless media-driven agenda against me will continue no matter the position I hold. This targeted media campaign continues to distract our Caucus and the Legislature from focusing on the serious work that must be done over the next few months.”