More on Durham report — quotes and comments

Some passages from the final attorney general’s investigative report on the doings of state Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin:

“Representative Durham’s position as the freshman class leader, Majority Party Whip and member of a number of committees, gave him access to legislative staff members, interns, and lobbyists, albeit for different reasons. The investigation revealed that legislative staff members and interns rely on their relationships with legislators for employment and references for future employment opportunities at the Capitol. There was a perception among some staff members we interviewed that those who displease a legislator may risk loss of those opportunities, if bad references are shared among the legislative members.

“The power differential between a legislator and a staff member or intern is more apparent than that between a lobbyist, who is independently employed, and a legislator. The investigation revealed that lobbyists, much like staff members and interns, depend on maintaining a good working relationship with legislators for their livelihood and future success. A lobbyist depends on favorable support from legislators to satisfy and build a client base, and many female lobbyists interviewed described the substantial financial and professional stake they have in avoiding anything that would jeopardize a good relationship with legislators. As Jane Doe #4 put it, lobbyists do not have clients without legislators.

“Consequently, Representative Durham was able to use his position as an elected official to approach female staff members, interns, and staff members in a manner that they would normally reject as inappropriate and sexual in nature.”

–“I’m bored as hell. Lobby me.” Late night text message to woman lobbyist.

–“I’m trying to elevate our relations to a more amiable situation.” Another text message to a lady lobbyist.

–“Sounds like someone is a church skipping heathen. No wonder you wanted Medicaid expanded.” Another text message.

“I’d like to see you naked around midnight.” Message to a “20-year-old college student/political worker” — an intern at the time — who said she had sex with Durham at his office.

From The Tennessean’s report:

The report also includes another woman — identified as Jane Doe 9 — who said during the 2013 or 2014 legislative session that Durham had a dish of candy on his desk. When she asked for one, Durham instead pulled a dirty, unwrapped mint from his pocket and said, “You don’t want those I’ve got this.”

After that, she gave Durham the nickname “Pants Candy.”

Another male lobbyist, according to the report, said when the woman asked for a mint from the candy dish, Durham “put his hand in his pocket, and moved it around in a manner that made ‘quite a display’ of accentuating his genitalia.”

…An attorney for Durham issued a statement blasting the report, but didn’t specifically refute any of the findings.

“Even though nobody ever filed a complaint of sexual harassment, the investigation goes into alleged details with allegations from witnesses whose identity is completely anonymous,” attorney Bill Harbison said in the statement.

“Unlike any normal legal proceeding where there is an opportunity to confront witnesses, get notice of subpoenas, or, at the very least, understand the exact allegations against a person, this investigation has been secretive and deceptive from the very beginning. We believe that no fair-minded person should judge Jeremy Durham based on a one-sided, anonymous report.”

…In a news conference later Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, called Durham’s acts “repulsive and unacceptable,” and said they were not representative of all members of the House.

“This may be one of the few times in his life he has been held accountable. This will be made public,” Harwell said, almost yelling in response to whether the committee’s investigation was an “act of futility.”

Statement from Mary Mancini, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party:

“Today made official what we have known for months: Jeremy Durham has a history harassing women and abusing his position of authority and Tennessee Republican leadership has been covering it up for far too long.

Tennessee Republican leadership have continually failed to provide a safe working environment at our State Capitol.

Speaker of the House, Beth Harwell, Leader Gerald McCormick and Chairman Glenn Casada have been woefully inadequate in their response and actions. They have known for more than a year about Jeremy Durham’s inappropriate behavior and for far too long they did nothing but sweep it under the rug to protect their own power. Once the public found out about their complacency, the continued to drag their feet, doing only the minimum to correct their terrible mistakes including the ridiculous and ineffective office move of Rep. Durham to a separate building.

The people of Tennessee won’t easily forget the fact that GOP leadership allowed a serial sexual harasser to abuse his authority, create a toxic workplace environment, and cause irreparable harm to his victims.

Even now, after all the reports and victims coming forward the leadership still stands behind him, even helping him campaign for re-election.

Speaker Harwell and her fellow Republican leaders’ failure to act, failure to lead, and failure hold Durham accountable for sexually harassing multiple women, is unacceptable and an utter failure of leadership. Since Beth Harwell, Glen Casada and the Republican leadership refused to take real action they need to step aside and make room for real leaders who will put the people above ambition.”

From a list of report snippets collected by AP:

One woman, who told investigators he once rubbed her thigh, said that “it is generally known among female lobbyists that you do not want to be in Rep. Durham’s office alone.”

…Lobbyists and legislative staffers interviewed in the report described him sending late-night, suggestive text messages, touching them and persistently asking them to drink with him. They thought he was “fishing” to see how far he could go, describing him as “creepy,” and giving them “ick feelings.”

…One lobbyist told investigators that she feared crossing him because “they have the trump card. They can make or break you.” A senior male lobbyist agreed saying “that enduring a legislator’s sexual advances is merely part of a female lobbyist’s job.”

One young intern said she had hoped to get a full-time job and was afraid to look like “that girl” who caused trouble. Another said she told Durham he was being inappropriate and he responded, “Welcome to Capitol Hill.”