February 2, 2023

Leaked racist text messages full of slurs just set off a major scandal for Tennessee Republicans

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Like clockwork, the Republican Party has found itself deeply embroiled in another racist scandal today. A new investigation from NewsChannel5 has uncovered inappropriate behavior on the part of Cade Cothren, the Chief of Staff to Tenessee’s Republican Speaker of the House Glen Casada.


The evidence, which includes shockingly racist text messages from Cothren, points to the possibility that he sought to frame student activist Justin Jones after Casada’s office had some contentious run-ins with the young man.

Jones was involved with protests against Casada’s office over voting rights as well as the state government’s opposition to removing the bust of a Confederate general from the state capitol.

The protests increased in energy and size and Jones was arrested after someone threw a cup onto Speaker Casada’s elevator. He was accused of assault but released on bail under the direction that he never contact Casada again, an order which Jones says he obeyed.

“This many months later, I have not had any contact with Casada or have not been at the Capitol. So I followed the no-contact order,” the student activist said.

Even so, Tenessee’s Attorney General Glenn Funk moved to revoke Jones’s bail based on an allegation that Jones sent an email to Casada’s Chief of Staff Cade Cothren with the Speaker himself copied on the missive. If true, it would have constituted a violation of his bail.

Jones was stunned by the development because he had done no such thing. He soon learned that the DA was working off a photo of an email allegedly sent just one day after Jones was forbidden from contacting Casada. Unfortunately for those trying to possibly frame him, Jones still had the original email, which showed that he had sent it days before he was even arrested in the first place.

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The fake email was given to the DA’s office by Cothren.

“You have some of the most powerful people in this state who are willing to file a false report and to file a false paperwork and to manipulate paperwork to take your freedom away,” Jones said.

“It was done to put me in jail, which is scary that somebody in such a public office – an office that swears to uphold the state constitution, an office that is in charge of a $38 billion budget – is doing something like this. I mean, it’s shameful.”

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Speaker Casada claimed to NewChannel5 Investigates that he knows nothing about the doctored email photo. Cothren himself refused to answer questions about the email, even when confronted in person by NewsChannel5.

Unfortunately for Cothren, a former associate of his handed over some of their text messages to NewsChannel5, which include a meme about black people as well as racial slurs. When contacted, he didn’t deny that he had sent the messages.


“You have Cade, the Speaker’s chief of staff, calling someone a ‘thug n*gger’ — and I question, is that how they see us each time we go up there and say we would like a meeting with the Speaker to talk about voter suppression and how it is racialized, we would like to talk to the Speaker about why we have a KKK statue in our state capitol,” said Jones.

Now, Speaker Casada has released an unconvincing statement full of protestations in response to the story. Of course, anyone expecting honesty from the modern GOP at this point hasn’t been paying attention. Racism has become the bread and butter of this vile party.

Read the full statement from Casada below”

The allegations made today by NewsChannel 5 are blatantly false. The email that is referenced and is the central focus of this investigation was not edited in any way, shape or form. On Friday, March 1, Mr. Cothren received an email from the account belonging to Justin Jones. This email was also sent to at least 12 members of the media, as well my own state address and my executive assistant’s address.

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When Cothren received this email, he immediately forwarded it to District Attorney Funk because of the recently issued conditions of Mr. Jones’s bond. It was later determined that the email from Mr. Jones was sent on February 25th, but was not delivered to any of the state email accounts until March 1st, due to a security issue.

Once the Assistant District Attorney contacted Cothren with additional questions about the date of the email, Cothren was made aware that Mr. Jones’s email was not sent on March 1st. At this point, Cothren immediately told the ADA that he wanted to reach out to our Legislative Information Systems department to investigate why it looked as if he had received the email on March 1st. The ADA responded to Cothren, making him aware that DA Funk had already requested to file a motion, but offered to strike it, at which point, Cothren requested he do so until LIS could provide clarity on the date discrepancy.

The idea that my Chief of Staff would alter an email that was also received by nearly a dozen members of the media is absurd. It is disappointing that a reputable television station would be so irresponsible to produce a story in such an unprofessional and malicious manner. This calls to question the veracity of their entire story.

I’ve known Cade Cothren for nearly a decade, and I’ve never known him to act in a manner in which these emails and texts falsely portray him.”

Whatever the truth is, it will emerge soon enough since AG Funk has now requested a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.

Natalie Dickinson

Natalie is a staff writer for the Washington Press. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been freelance blogging and writing for progressive outlets ever since.

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