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VOL. 133 | NO. 65 | Friday, March 30, 2018

Tennessee Lawmaker Questions Motives of Female Accusers

By JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A Tennessee lawmaker on Wednesday questioned the motives of three women who accused him of sexual misconduct as their high school basketball coach decades ago, but he didn't outright deny the accusations.

In a wide-ranging written statement, Republican state Rep. David Byrd said "conduct over 30 years ago is difficult, at best, to recall, but as a Christian, I have said and I will repeat that if I hurt or emotionally upset any of my students I am truly sorry and apologize."

He said he doesn't believe that the women, who were 15 and 16 years old at the time, can show that they reported the alleged incidents to authorities or received subsequent mental health counseling.

Byrd apologized a second time in the statement, saying said if his acts or omissions cause the women distress, he's truly sorry.

"I do not condone sexually inappropriate behavior and hope that my behavior over the last 30 years bears that out," said Byrd, a Waynesboro lawmaker. "I ran for office, not for opportunity for myself but for the opportunity to help others and provide a service to this district. I understand that my stances on some issues in the House are controversial and I knew that I would have opponents who would seek to embellish my character."

In a WSMV-TV report Tuesday, two women alleged Byrd inappropriately touched them. The third said Byrd tried to.

One woman said she recorded a call to Byrd last month. In the call, aired on WSMV-TV, Byrd apologized but didn't detail his actions, and denied anything happened with other students.

"I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would've never happened," Byrd said in the recorded call. "But I hope you believe me when I say that it's one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me."

The report has drawn calls from House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally for Byrd to resign.

He said he's a man of integrity, faith in God and family and can continue to be a trustworthy state representative. He said he's done nothing wrong or inappropriate while a lawmaker.

Byrd said he's disappointed in Harwell's call for his resignation, but said he understands her "political posture."

Tennessee has lost two lawmakers in recent years due to sexual misconduct allegations: Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham, who was expelled in September 2016, and Republican Rep. Mark Lovell, who resigned in February.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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