September 26, 2022

HYPOCRISY: The story of one GOP Tennessee state senator, his affair with a cousin, and opioid prescriptions

HYPOCRISY: The story of one GOP Tennesseee state senator, his affair with a cousin, and opioid prescriptions

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When it comes to judgment, morality, and what is deemed “God-like” and “Christian”, the GOP lives in an alternate universe. The soapbox from which they spout rhetoric of condemnation and eternal damnation for those not agreeing with them gets higher and higher. So imagine the surprise (or not), at revelations that Tennessee State Senator Joey Hensley is currently on medical probation for opioid prescriptions he issued – in violation of medical ethics – to friends, family, and employees between 2011 and 2018.

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His defense? He was the only doctor in town and to deny his patients because of his personal relationship with them would be discrimination.

An investigation by the Tennessee Department of Health resulted in a board unanimously voting to place Hensley on medical probation for “violating medical and ethical standards.” The sanction is considered professional probation, not a legal one. Hensley not only kept his medical license, but continues to sit on the board of the Tennessee State Health and Welfare Committee, the legislative body that regulates opioids, and continues to be responsible for the health and welfare of Tennesseans, physically and mentally. According to the website of the committee:

“This committee is responsible for public or private hospitals; health offices and their administration; institutions and services for persons with an intellectual disability; mental health institutions and facilities; geriatric hospitals; nursing homes; vocational rehabilitation including vocation rehabilitation homes; alcoholic rehabilitation; Department of Health; tuberculosis sanatoriums; nurses training programs; public welfare; old age assistance; private and local institutions of public welfare; and research training and rehabilitation in the field of public welfare.”

As his state was being ravaged by opioid addiction and abuse, State Senator Hensley was supplying residents of Hohenwald with prescriptions without regard for their personal health, history of abuse, or predisposition towards abuse. Case in point, Lori Barber, who was not only a patient and employee of Hensley’s medical practice, but she was also his mistress.

And did I mention, his cousin? Second cousin. Twice removed – but still.

Her divorce proceedings (brought on by Barber and Hensley’s affair), revealed a history of substance abuse. No records of her health, pharmaceutical history, dependence, or treatment were found to be kept by Hensley. Hensley admitted to prescribing Barber at least 47 times.

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Hensley’s attorney David Steed dismissed the familial ties between Hensley and Barber by saying “half the county are Hensley’s”.

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While under investigation — and after refusing to testify in the divorce proceedings, citing legislative and medical privilege –  Hensley endorsed none other than Senator Home Economics, and guardian of all that defines “a woman,” Senator Marsha Blackburn. Hensley endorsed Blackburn at a fundraiser during her successful 2018 bid for Senate.

Blackburn praised Hensley in 2016 for his commitment to “protecting children” during a visit to the child advocacy center Kid’s Place in Lawrenceburg, TN.

This was one year after Gina Hensley — State Senator Hensley’s fourth wife — would be granted an order of protection alleging that her estranged husband hit her with a vehicle…twice…in the driveway of her home. Hensley accused Gina of taking possessions that didn’t belong to her, leading to a domestic dispute.

“According to the order of protection, Hensley’s ex-wife says she is in fear of his anger but had no choice to call 911 to protect herself and her family,” WSMV-TV of Nashville reported.

A week prior, Hensley would introduce legislation on the distribution of marital property that allowed a judge to be able to decide such cases. He admitted his impending divorce had prompted the legislation.

It would be Gina Hensley who alerted Barber’s husband, Hohenwald Vice Mayor Don Barber, to the affair. She provided him with a flash drive loaded with phone calls, text messages, and screenshots — proof of the affair between the kissing cousins.

In 2012, Hensley introduced legislation, also dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a full decade before Ron DeSantis signed a Florida version of the legislation into law. Hensley’s bill would have forbidden Tennessee teachers from even mentioning the existence of homosexuality. In 2017, Hensley sponsored a bill, at the urging of the Tennessee Family Action Council, that would make children created using donor sperm illegitimate.

I must have missed the page in the GOP family values manual where it says same-sex relationships are bad, but extra-marital, familial sexual relations — and hooking people on drugs — are perfectly acceptable.

I reached out to Senator Blackburn’s office via email and phone, asking for a statement on Senator Hensley’s admission to prescribing opioids in violation of medical ethics; the affair that broke up two families; Henley’s endorsement of her for Senate; and whether she intends on supporting him in his re-election campaign.

I am still awaiting a reply.

While Senator Marsha Blackburn has been openly criticizing SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for doing her job, championing anti-LGBTQ legislation and discriminatory legislation that rolls back progress in communities of color and with women’s rights, she remains silent on the Senator from her state who endorsed her — someone who didn’t just have an extramarital affair but had one with a family member. Someone who prescribed opioids wantonly to his mistress and family. Someone who was ordered to stay away from his wife after a domestic dispute.

Republican hypocrisy knows no bottom. Or shame.

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Tennesee recently introduced legislation that describes defines marriage as “between one man and one woman. It also does away with minimum age requirements. Marriage between two consenting adults – bad. Marriage between an adult and a child – GOP approved.

Looks like the party of family values strikes again – if that family’s name is Manson.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Original reporting by The Columbia Daily Herald.

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Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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