State Sen. Jim Summerville was removed Thursday as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee after an email sent from his personal email account used a graphic term to convey to the legislature’s black caucus his view of its response to a hearing Summerville chaired last week on grade changes at Tennessee State University.
Further from Richard Locker:
“I am very disappointed in the unfortunate choice of words and tone used by Senator Summerville in responding to Rep. (Barbara) Cooper,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, said in a statement Thursday. “There is a standard of courtesy that must be observed by members of the General Assembly and this went beyond what is acceptable. He has been removed as the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman.”
Summerville, R-Dickson, did not return repeated calls and emails from reporters to his home and office for comment. The email was sent to Cooper, D-Memphis, Wednesday night and, apparently at Summerville’s request, she forwarded it to her colleagues in the black caucus and other legislators. Summerville is a freshman lawmaker known for his candid public statements.
The message from a personal email address that Summerville has publicly posted as his says: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks. Jim Summerville”
The subject line of Summerville’s email to Cooper says “Please share this response with your colleagues”.
The email address, email@example.com, is one that Summerville has publicly posted as his personal contact for several years on various websites, including the National Association of Scholars, of which he was Tennessee chapter president. He is an adjunct professor of history at Austin Peay State University.
Cooper could not be reached for immediate comment but Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, chairman of the legislative black caucus, said that if the message is from Summerville, “that’s appalling. Not only does he embarrass himself, he embarrasses the entire state of Tennessee by making a statement like that. It makes you wonder what his state of mind was at the time. Why would a state senator even think that and why would you put it out publicly?
Note: Statement from House Democratic Caucus, Democratic party below.
From House Democratic Caucus:
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner and Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh issued the following statement regarding comments by former Senate Chairman Jim Summerville.
“We are deeply concerned by the rhetoric coming from former Chairman Jim Summerville. His words show a complete lack of respect and decorum for not only Representative Barbara Cooper, but the entire Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus. There is no place in the General Assembly and the public discourse for this kind of foul and offensive remark.
It is disappointing to know that someone with such antiquated views holds any position of leadership in the General Assembly. Given these highly offensive remarks, we are calling on Senator Summerville to issue a full written apology to Representative Cooper and the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus. Anything short of that is beneath the dignity of this body.”
Statement from Senate Education Committee Chairman Delores Gresham:
(NASHVILLE, TN), August 23, 2012 — “I am very disappointed in the unfortunate choice of words and tone used by Senator Summerville in responding to Rep. Cooper. There is a standard of courtesy that must be observed by members of the General Assembly and this went beyond what is acceptable. He has been removed as the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman.”
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Democratic Party issued a statement today condemning state Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) for the disrespectful comment he made to the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators. On Thursday, the Nashville Scene reported Summerville sent a one-sentence email to state Rep. Barbara Cooper that stated: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.”
“The level of disrespect Jim Summerville has shown to our black leaders is wholly unacceptable. He should apologize immediately to the Black Caucus and to his constituents for his contemptible behavior which is unbecoming of the public office he holds,” said Chip Forrester, chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “We’ll never make progress on attracting good-paying jobs and addressing the important problems facing our state if our legislators can’t work together in a respectful and civil manner.
“Sadly the Tea Party extremists, like Jim Summerville, who have taken over state government do not concern themselves with cooperation. In fact, it appears they are proud of the divisive and intolerant political culture they have created,” Forrester said. “I would hope Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey would forcefully and unequivocally rebuke these insensitive and inappropriate comments.”