Former Rep. Barry Doss Defends Byrd, Says “A Lot” of People Molest People

Yesterday the Tennessean ran a jaw-dropping article in which former Rep. Barry Doss (R-Lawrenceburg) was quoted as saying Rep. David Byrd – who has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he sexually abused them when he was their high school basketball coach – has admitted he’s “ashamed of his past” but that “God has forgiven him”.

Doss also recently approached Kristina Richardson of Enough Is Enough – Tennessee and defended Byrd by saying that “There’s a lot more people that have molested people than you’re letting on.”

The “everyone does” it defense is an interesting one to use when it comes to child sex abuse.

He even seemed to implicate Governor Lee as someone with skeletons in his closet. The whole thing has to be seen to be believed. WATCH THE VIDEO:

The other man in the video is Kevin Baigert, who runs the Roving Patriots PAC with his wife Laura, and who was involved with helping to launch the Tennessee Star, a right-wing propaganda outlet (whose CEO owes his ex-wife hundreds of thousands in child support).

In the video Baigert tells Kristina that if she wants to go after Byrd she needs to go after Rep. Rick Staples also, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., even though neither have admitted on tape to child sex abuse with teenage girls.

Richardson also makes the astute point that as a Hardin County resident David Byrd is her representative, and Martin Luther King Jr. is not. She then tells the two men she is not being paid, and says she is one of 6 women of Enough Is Enough who are speaking up about the Byrd issue on behalf of the survivors.

Kristina handled herself well. Truly fascinating to watch Doss and Baigert essentially mount the “Everyone does it” defense on behalf of Byrd, whose behavior Doss repeatedly insists he is not “condoning”.

It’s important to note that what Doss does NOT say is “Byrd didn’t do it.”

At the same event we saw Senator Joey Hensley call Byrd a “good person” and a changed man, which tells us that Republicans have abandoned the “Byrd didn’t do it” defense – clearly realizing nobody was buying that – and have now moved on to saying he did it but he’s a new man, a good Christian and that since God has forgiven him we all should too.

Ironically, Governor Lee JUST THIS WEEK signed a bill that removed statute of limitations for child sex abuse that passed the house and senate easily.

So to sum up the Republican position: Child sex abusers should be punished regardless of how much time has passed… unless you’re David Byrd.

The hypocrisy runs deep.

We should note that Governor Lee has left the door open to expelling Byrd in the upcoming August 23rd special session to replace Glen Casada as speaker. Between now and then, everyone in Tennessee should be showing up at town halls and hollering at every elected official to ask ON TAPE if they agree Byrd Must Go.

Salute to Kristina for this video. Please send all other videos of reps being asked our way: TheTNHoller@gmail.com

Dems to Casada: Where Did All The Money Go?

From the Democratic Caucus:

Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart today asked “where did all the money go?”  Stewart demanded a full accounting into the financial dealings of outgoing Speaker Glen Casada’s Republican leadership team.

Chairman Stewart:

“All of these reports of no-show jobs, five figure raises for former interns and multi-million dollar expenditure increases need to be fully examined before we go into special session and vote on a new Speaker.  The Republicans cannot be permitted to use the Special Session to sweep these issues under the rug and hide the truth from the citizens who were forced to foot the bill for all this nonsense.”

Representative Gloria Johnson added:

“The reports we have read about misspent money are deeply offensive to the citizens of my district; these taxpayers are entitled to know what happened to every cent of their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Stewart called on a three-pronged approach to determine how funds were misspent, misallocated and/or misused during the Speaker’s administration:

  • A full financial audit by the comptroller’s office into spending on purchases, salaries and allocations made by the Speaker’s office since Casada’s election.
  • The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the no-show jobs held by employees of the Speaker’s office.
  • An open records release of all financial records, receipts, timesheets and other documents for full public review.

Chairman Stewart urged that all requests need to be completed before the called special session August 23rd, saying:

“Otherwise, we risk the possibility that the Republicans will just put one of Casada’s cronies in as Speaker in an effort to sweep evidence of financial malfeasance under the rug.  If that happens, the taxpayers will never really know the full cost of the Casada Gravy Train and those that got the money will never be held accountable.”

Speaking of no-show jobs, the Holler has been told Michael Lotfi, who was on the receiving end of one of Casada’s no-show jobs and was attacked child sex abuse survivors while on the payroll, is still handling social media for Tennessee House Republicans.

Bill Lee’s Medical Poverty Tour

This post was first seen on the TN Citizen Action Blog. Follow @TNCitizenAction for more.

On Friday, Governor Bill Lee toured rural counties in southern middle Tennessee touting what he called his legislative accomplishments.

It’s worth noting that the counties he toured are home to residents with crushing medical debt. Additionally, many citizens in these counties face a lack of access to health insurance. While Lee failed to apologize for his health policy failures, the citizens of this area and all of Tennessee should be holding Lee accountable.

His steadfast refusal to expand Medicaid — at no cost to Tennessee taxpayers — is creating a crisis in a state that already leads the nation in both rural hospital closures and medical debt.

Here’s more (data from The Sycamore Institute) on the state of healthcare in each of the counties Lee visited:

Giles County

28% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

Between 11% and 14% of Giles County residents do not have health insurance

Lawrence County

30% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

14-17% of Lawrence County residents do not have health insurance

Lincoln County

26% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

8-11% of Lincoln County residents do not have health insurance

Bedford County

33% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

14-17% of Bedford County residents do not have health insurance

Percent-of-Tennesseans-without-Health-Insurance-2012-2016-1

According to Andy Spears, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action:

“Bill Lee’s stubborn refusal to expand Medicaid is an absolute policy failure. The current state of healthcare in these counties and all across our state is unacceptable. We lead the nation in rural hospital closures. We lead the nation in medical debt. Instead of announcing a plan to move forward and improve the lives of the residents of these counties, Lee is busy selling the snake oil of his Administration’s ‘success’. It’s disappointing and shameful. Tennesseans in Giles, Lawrence, Lincoln, and Bedford counties and all over our state deserve straight talk and real solutions.”

Bill Lee Fail

For more on our work fighting for healthcare, follow @TNCitizenAction

Vouchers Just the Beginning: Gov. Lee Open to “Alternative” Ways to Dismantle Public Schools

This week Governor Lee visited Lawrenceburg alongside Rep. Clay Doggett and Rep. Joey Hensley as part of a mini-tour through Lawrence and a few other rural counties, and the subject of his Education Savings Accounts aka School Vouchers plan was brought up, and Lee again made it plain as day he is no friend to public schools, and that ESA’s are not a way to fix public schools, they’re a way to dismantle them.

WATCH:

As a reminder, ESA’s are vouchers that will allow kids to take public money to private schools, draining public schools of resources while steering money to what are in many cases religious for-profit Christian schools not subject to the same levels of accountability as Tennessee’s public schools.

The ESA program has been a priority of Governor Lee, but also of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, who has said on tape that her main agenda is to “Advance God’s Kingdom” through initiatives like vouchers.

ESA’s passed the house 50-48 after some serious arm-twisting by Glen Casada. Jason Zachary was the rep who flipped at the last minute, while insisting he was not promised anything for his vote. The FBI is allegedly now looking into what happened.

At this town hall, a woman stood up and asked Governor Lee about tax credits for those who don’t want their kids going to public schools. She expressed skepticism about the curriculum, saying that’s why she chose to remove her kids from public schools and now wants to not have to pay for them:

“Because some of us are paying taxes for services we’re not even using.”

Instead of expressing his support for public schools and pointing out how devastating it would be to our society if public schools were suddenly gutted by laws that required only those who use them to pay for them – meaning single people, people with grown kids, etc. could opt out (imagine the same if people decided they didn’t need police, or roads – an a la carte pay-for-what-you-use tax system is simply not what we have here in America).

No, Governor Lee went a different route. He expressed sympathy for the woman’s perspective, implied that he shares her vision for the future and believes ESA’s are the best way of getting there:

“If the people of Tennessee see good outcomes and results from that, then what we’ll start seeing is a greater desire and request for school choice, and we’ll look to alternative ways to do it.”

Lee tells her that because there’s no income tax in Tennessee, Education Savings Accounts are the best way to get where she’s trying to go – and that once people see that steering public money to private schools is a good thing, soon it won’t just be happening in Nashville and Memphis – the only two places  currently targeted with the ESA’s (which is why Shelby and Davidson are taking legal action) – over the cries of the reps from those districts.

Lee wants vouchers to eventually be everywhere. And then he’s open to other “alternative” ways to dismantle public schools and get their hands on those public dollars.

Lee very clearly did not dismiss the woman’s vision for a future in which nobody who doesn’t want to support public schools has to, where people can instead take all those public tax dollars and steer them to private schools under the guise of “school choice” – “Advancing God’s Kingdom” as Betsy Devos puts it.

This is only the beginning.

In the same meeting, Clay Doggett also reminded us again that the only reason he and 49 other reps voted for the vouchers was because they were promised vouchers wouldn’t come anywhere near their districts.

Senator Jack Johnson told Williamson County the same, and Rep. Crawford told The Holler that no he wouldn’t like it if vouchers were imposed on his district against his will, as is being done to Shelby and Davidson.

For more on vouchers, read The TN Ed Report’s recent piece on it.

Thank you Kristina for going there and showing up. We’d like to encourage everyone to show up at all town halls across the state and ask tough questions, and Holler at us with your videos.

 

Mayor Briley and Rep. John Ray Clemmons Clash Over Vouchers

At Last Night’s #StateOfBlackNashville Mayoral Forum, John Ray Clemmons for Mayor & Mayor David Briley clashed over Briley’s public silence when Gov. Bill Lee‘s school vouchers were being passed.

Briley says he was lobbying Republicans behind the scenes to kill the bill.

Cracker Barrel Gets It Right, Tells Hatemonger Fritts To Get Lost

In a story that has now made national news – picked up by Time, USA Today, Huffington Post and more – Cracker Barrel has made it clear that All Scripture Baptist Church, run by Pastor/Detective Grayson Fritts, would not be welcome at their establishment.

Fritts has called for the executions of LGBT people, and was forced into retirement from the Knox County Sheriff’s Department as a result.

The Cracker Barrel situation started with a Facebook post by All Scripture Baptist saying they would be heading to Cleveland, TN June 29th. The sharp eye of Blake Kitterman, a local resident, alerted us to the fact that the address on the post was in fact that of the Cracker Barrel in Cleveland.

We reached out to the Cracker Barrel to see if they knew anything about the event, and they told us they had heard of the post but were “blindsided” by it.

“All we do is feed people, we don’t do events,” the manager said. He clearly understood the seriousness of the situation, and gave us the number for Cracker Barrel’s national press relations.

Within hours, Cracker Barrel had issued an official statement saying they had no affiliation with Fritts and his church, and they would not be welcome to have an event at the restaurant.


Cracker Barrel’s support for the LGBT community was immediately clear, which showed how far they have come since the early 1990’s, when their policies were discriminatory.

Many in the LGBT community were appreciative of their quick action, saying they’d be making sure to eat there and would visit the Cracker Barrel booth at the Pride event Nashville this weekend.

All Scripture’s response was to accuse Cracker Barrel of a “double standard”, as U.S. News tells us:

In response to Cracker Barrel’s statement, All Scripture Baptist Church said they were only going to Cracker Barrel for “meeting and eating” and called the restaurant chain hypocrites.

“If the ‘LGBT’ community hosted an event there and Christians complained they wouldn’t ban the ‘LGBT’ group, they would tell us they don’t ‘discriminate’ against anyone,” the church said in an emailed statement. “But hey, it’s their business. They can have a double standard if they want to.”

Having one standard for people who don’t call for the execution of an entire community of Americans, and one standard for those who DO, is a pretty decent way to operate.

Bravo, Cracker Barrel. Bravo.

Sheriff Spangler Addresses Detective Fritts’ Comments

“Those violent, hate-filled comments are not reflective of our people.”

On Monday, Sheriff Spangler of addressed the sermons of Detective Fritts calling for LGBT people to be executed.

Fritts was relieved of duty, not fired. He still gets monthly retirement pay.

VIDEO: “My Uncle Is A Terrorist” – Detective Fritts’ Niece

Cherish Hope Newman, niece of Knox County Sheriff’s Detective/Pastor Grayson Fritts – who has called for the mass execution of LGBT people – speaks out.

She says that side of her family is “mostly full of racist bigots”, she won’t stand by silently as her uncle tries to turn Christianity into ISIS, and that God is a “merciful and loving God” who does not “hate” anyone.

Comment on her YouTube video HERE.

First spotted on WVLT.

 

VIDEO: Detective/Pastor Fritts Doubles Down On Hate Speech

“I am not an anomaly… If they hate you it means you’re doing the right thing.”

On Wednesday, in his first appearance since becoming national news, Knox Detective/Pastor Fritts said he’s “not calling anyone to violence” – while reiterating his monstrous attacks on LGBT people and calling out fellow preachers as “weak” and “spineless” for not backing him up.

KANEW: “What Republicans Really Mean By Socialism”

This op-ed by Holler co-founder Justin Kanew first appeared in the Tennessean.

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WHAT REPUBLICANS MEAN BY “SOCIALISM”

The Tennessean recently published an op-ed from mega-rich Republican donor Lee Beaman saying we should be “concerned” a recent Gallup poll shows 4 in 10 Americans now “consider socialism a good thing”.

Setting aside the goings-on in Beaman’s personal life that may or may not have made publishing his musings on socialism – or anything, for that matter – the morally decent thing to do, Beaman’s article provides an opportunity to define what he and other Republicans mean when they attack everything they don’t like as “socialism”.

“Socialism is not merely free healthcare and education,” Beaman richsplains, it “causes hunger and economic instability.”

But here’s the problem – when Americans “consider socialism to be a good thing,” they’re not talking about “government-owned and operated businesses” – Venzuela-style SOCIALISM, as Beaman implies.

They’re talking about “democratic socialism” (or “democratic capitalism” as Pete Buttigieg calls it), adding elements that work in other democracies to balance the runaway greed and corporate takeover of our government – as evidenced by the outsized influence Beaman himself has over our TN legislature – to meet public needs, rather than profits for a few.

The decision is not between “CAPITALISM” and “SOCIALISM”, as they’d have you believe. There’s a spectrum. Having free public libraries is a “socialist” idea, but it doesn’t make us a socialist country. Nor does having public roads, or public schools, or a fire department, or a military, etc.

It’s about balance. The middle class is disappearing. Tennessee leads the nation in medical bankruptcies, rural hospital closures, opioid abuse, % of minimum wage jobs, and we rank near the bottom in health care access, infant mortality, mental health facilities, life expectancy, obesity, per pupil spending, poverty…. the list goes on.

This is the real state of the state – the utopia the “Greed Over People” GOP supermajority has led us to. Republicans brag about our fiscal stability ranking, but they never mention these.

Medicaid expansion would help 300,000 Tennesseans get health insurance. They call it “socialism”, yet don’t attribute the same tag to the $16 Billion farmer bailout to ease the pain Trump’s Tariffs have caused – bailout money that comes from FDR’s New Deal, which provided support for the unemployed, youth, the elderly, and included new constraints on the banking industry and efforts to re-inflate the economy after prices had fallen.

Think these same Republicans would’ve called the New Deal “Socialism”? Of course they would have.

Beaman describes “socialism” as standing in opposition to “freedom”, but what he really means is the freedom to maximize profits no matter the cost:

Regulations to protect our children from dangerous chemicals? “SOCIALISM!”

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect us from predatory lenders? “SOCIALISM!”

Medicaid expansion/Universal Care to protect our vulnerable & control costs? “SOCIALISM!”

Minimum wage increase to help those who work to support their families? “SOCIALISM!”

Paid family leave to help new parents? “SOCIALISM!”

Unions to help workers protect themselves? “SOCIALISM!”

The list goes on. It has lost its meaning.

But these ideas are not “socialism” or “communism” (Beaman conflates the two, either out of ignorance or intentionally). These are programs that work in other democracies, and they’re the path to a better America – an America that works for more than just those at the top.

We’ve entered a second Gilded Age – to Beaman’s benefit – but America wasn’t founded on unbridled greed and concentrated power and wealth, it was founded IN OPPOSITION TO THOSE THINGS.

So when Americans “consider socialism a good thing”, it’s not because they’re un-American or against freedom or hard work, it’s because we now have a rigged system where the government responds to the needs of big donors rather than those of the people.

That’s the real “insult to those who’ve given their lives to protect our freedoms”.

America has evolved over the years, and she will continue to. By pushing back against that evolution, Beaman isn’t “standing beside her and guiding her”, he’s trying to control her and maintain power over her.