Lawmaker says sexual harrassment allegations false

Published 5:53 am Friday, July 15, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A state representative accused of sexually harassing at least 22 women said Thursday that nearly all of the allegations in an attorney general’s report are either false or taken out of context.

Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham said he never attempted sexual contact with any of the women whose stories are described in the report. He also said he was suspending his re-election campaign to focus on his family, although he stopped short of resigning his seat.

Reaction from leadership in the supermajority Republican General Assembly was quick, with House Speaker Beth Harwell calling Durham’s denials “insulting to the brave women whose testimony was detailed in the report.” She also said he needs to make it clear that he is not running for re-election. Early primary voting starts Friday, so Durham’s name already is on the ballot.

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Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Durham should resign immediately.

“His actions were beyond disgraceful,” Ramsey said in an emailed statement. “Suspending his campaign but refusing to resign is an affront to the women of this state and the taxpayers who pay his salary.”

Durham spoke to reporters at his attorney’s office, making a brief statement before leaving the room through a back door and refusing to take any questions.

The report looked at Durham’s conduct over about a three-year period beginning in late 2012. It was released Wednesday after a five-month investigation that included interviews with 72 witnesses, several of whom showed investigators text and Facebook messages from Durham.