By Andy Sher

Tennessee House Democrats demanded the resignation or removal of Republican House Speaker Glen Casada, citing Monday's resignation of Casada's chief of staff Cade Cothren following revelations from his text exchanges with the speaker where Cothren discussed using illegal drugs, sexual activities with women and also making racist and sexist remarks.

Democrats said in their statement "it is now clear that Speaker Casada participated in numerous acts that make his continued service as Speaker untenable."

House Democratic Caucus Chair Karen Camper of Memphis said "citizens of the State of Tennessee deserve to have a Speaker that they can trust; whose character and moral standards are beyond reproach."

She said the "actions of our Speaker are unbecoming and disrespectful, not only to the citizens of our state, but to the office he holds."

Caucus Chair Mike Stewart charged that "actions have consequences; Speaker Casada's actions are obviously disqualifying and he must either resign or be removed."

Casada's office had no immediate comment. Earlier today, Casada defended his vulgar exchanges with Cothren, telling a conservative radio show host that it was "locker-room talk" and and emphasizing "that is not me today."

"I'm embarrassed about that," Casada told WWTN-FM host Brian Wilson in an interview, a day after Cothren resigned amidst a flurry of revealed 2014 to 2016 about sex, drugs and blacks, which have been denounced by critics as racist and sexist.

Casada said that "in the last couple of years, I have come to realize ... I can't do this and it is not appropriate behavior. So, yes, I participated in locker-room talk with two adult men that was not intended to go to anyone else, and I was wrong. In the last several years, that kind of talk has not entered and left my mouth."

"I'm sorry I did it," Casada went on to say. "I'm embarrassed I did it. But it's not going to happen again."

Earlier in the day, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators demanded the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation be called investigate allegations that Cothren used racially derogatory language and images and also "falsified evidence" in a judicial proceeding to spur criminal charges against Justin Jones, a civil rights activist.

That was for Cothren's alleged violation of a legal order that he not contact Casada following Jones' arrest for allegedly throwing a cup of fluid at the speaker.

The speaker's office issued a statement saying that "if the TBI or the DA wishes to proceed with an inquiry, we are more than happy to answer any questions they have to prove, once and for all, that the narrative about this office submitting edited evidence to the District Attorney's office is patently false. We look forward to fully exonerating this office of any wrongdoing in the matter."

"We look forward to fully exonerating this office of any wrongdoing in the matter," the speaker said.

At the time of the 2016 texts, Casada, who later became the powerful House speaker in January, was Republican Caucus chairman and Cothren the caucus press secretary.

Nashville television station WTVF has disclosed text messages and photo exchanges between Casada and Cothren, which Casada initially charged were fabrications.

The most recent revelations involved Cothren several years. ago discussing his use of cocaine in his legislative office and describing to Casada how he had just had sex with in a woman in a Nashville bar's restroom, WTVF reported.

In other published texts, Cothren described his sexual pursuit of female interns as well as an older female lobbyist.

Asked earlier today by WWTN host Wilson how he would characterize support for himself among his GOP colleagues, Casada said it is "overwhelming ... based on my conversations with them."

One Republican described House GOP members as "circling the wagons" in support of Casada.

(c)2019 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)