Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) on Thursday claimed that state Rep. Jeremy Durham (R), who recently stepped down from his leadership post for allegedly sexually harassing female staffers with persistent texts, had an affair with a fellow lawmaker who was forced to resign from office.
“Honestly we don’t want the press lynching anybody. But the press didn’t force somebody to send text messages after midnight asking for pictures. The press didn’t force somebody to have an affair with another state Rep. and force them to resign,” Ramsey said when asked at a Tennessee Press Association event if the legislature had the necessary information to expel Durham, according to the Nashville Scene. “So on and on and on. I think the evidence is there for this to happen. It’s such a huge distraction.”
When asked by reporters to expand on his comments about the alleged affair, Ramsey replied, “I think everybody knows what I’m talking about,” according to the Nashville Scene.
Ramsey said he couldn’t confirm the affair, according to The Tennessean.
“I haven’t heard any more than you all have. But you don’t have to be real smart to read between the lines,” he said.
Durham stepped down from his position as the state House majority whip on Sunday after The Tennessean reported that he sent numerous messages to female staffers asking to meet up at bars and for photos. But Durham has denied sexually harassing anybody.
Republican leaders have called on Durham to resign from his seat and are looking into expelling him from the legislature. Durham also agreed to disassociate himself with the state House Republican caucus.
According to The Tennessean, three individuals, — Rep. Ryan Haynes (R), Rep. Mike Harrison (R) and Rep. Leigh Wilburn (R) — have resigned from the Tennessee legislature in the last year.
Wilburn resigned in December “due to unforeseen circumstances involving my immediate and extended family and my business.”
The Tennessean asked Harrison on Thursday if he had an affair with Durham.
“Are you serious?” he asked in response. “Oh lord, have mercy. No, I didn’t have an affair with Jeremy Durham.”
Brent Leatherwood, the executive director of the state Republican party, told The Tennessean that Haynes’ resignation “unequivocally had nothing to do with Jeremy Durham.”
When reached for comment by The Tennessean on Thursday, Durham’s office denied that the lawmaker had an affair with Harrison or Wilburn.
“As of January 27, 2016, Representative Durham has taken a couple of weeks of leave from the legislature, which has been approved by Speaker Harwell. Nevertheless, he categorically denies having any physical relationship with former representatives Harrison or Wilburn,” Zach Dean, Durham’s assistant, said in a statement.
The Tennessean said it had yet to reach Wilburn for comment.