The Republican Majority Whip for the Tennessee House of Representatives has agreed to relinquish his influential post -- but not his seat -- after being caught sexually harassing three different women by texting them inappropriate comments and requests.
State Rep. Jeremy Durham officially stepped down hours after the GOP leadership released a statement saying he was out -- but not before telling the press he was still undecided, reports The Tennessean.
An investigation by The Tennessean uncovered the texts sent to the women, although they had never reported the messages out of fear of retaliation or invasion of their privacy.
One woman, in her mid-20s, said she received late night texts from the Christian lawmaker saying he missed her and requesting pictures. Despite feeling uncomfortable with the texts, she feared what would happen if she reported the powerful Republican to her bosses.
“I go tell someone in HR, 'oh, this representative did this to me, you know,'” explained the woman who asked that her name not be used. “I mean, I know those things are supposed to be anonymous, and no one’s supposed to know who it was. But someone would have known by the time I walked back across the street to the plaza.”
When confronted with the messages from all three women, Durham stated he didn't remember sending them.
Contacted by The Tennessean on Sunday about the announcement that he was stepping down from his post, Durham demurred by email, writing: "I'm talking it over with my family but have not made a decision. Nothing should've gone out. Watching Broncos game at the moment.”
Following the refusal to confirm he had agreed to step aside, Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada stated, "I was under the impression that Representative Durham was resigning from his leadership position. He has since contacted me and said his statement was only a draft. This is certainly a surprise to me,"
Tennessee GOP Party Chairman Ryan Haynes blasted Durham's response, stating, "Sexual harassment of any kind is wrong. Voters elect public officials to focus on our communities and our state. Officeholders should not take part in anything that undermines that commitment. This (Durham's) behavior is a stain on the good work that is done at the Legislature and is not reflective of either the good men and women who work there or the Republican Party.”
Two hours after the leadership announced his resignation, the Republican from Franklin confirmed he was stepping aside.