Attacks messenger, instead.
In a clear sign she is in major, major trouble, Speaker Beth Harwell refused to directly address the charges of abuse committed in her own office, and instead attacked the legislator who brought the accusations to light.
Rep. Billy Spivey, at the apparent request of staff members who said “all proper avenue have been exhausted and have resultd in no administrative action,” released information that said House Clerk Joe McCord abused an employee in the Speaker’s own office, and that the Speaker, McCord, Harwell’s chief-of-staff Scott Gilmer and Connie Ridley all tried to cover it up.
The irony that this took place during the very same time the AG was investigating Rep. Jeremy Durham for “inappropriate behavior” was lost on Harwell, who took hours to even respond to the news media and when she did, attempted to smear Spivey in the process.
The attempt fell flat. RTP offers a brief analysis as to why the bald-faced hypocrisy of the Speaker has now devolved in a desperate attempt to slime others in order to hang on to her legislative seat and her job as Speaker. Let’s start with Harwell’s first sentence:
“It is no secret Rep. Spivey is a long-time defender of Jeremy Durham.”
That is not just a lie, it is a crude smear. The overwhelming majority of the legislature knows for a fact that Spivey was one of Durham’s earliest and most consistent critics. To say otherwise is ludicrous and Harwell knows it.
“Spivey failed to attend [the special session where Durham was expelled.]”
Harwell knows that (a) the special session was NOT called to expel Durham, but was ostensibly called to give a rubber stamp to correcting previous legislation and (b) she knew Spivey was filling in for the injured owner in running the day-to-day operations of a 2,000-employ plant. That Spivey chose his employees over the show-trial fiasco of expelling Durham is not only understandable, but admirable.
“Spivey… would not sign off on the [Attorney General’s] report.”
It was widely known and was reported that Spivey did not sign off on the report primarily because of his concern that the entire process was flawed and that the AG and leadership had not sufficiently secured the anonymity of the women involved – a fear that was realized only hours after the report came out, when even casual observers were able to decode the real names of the “Jane and John Does.”
But of all people in the legislature one would pick to smear, she chose Billy Spivey? The retiring Spivey is one of the best-liked members of a body that isn’t exactly known for self-effacing, gregarious individuals like the representative from Lewisburg. Even Spivey’s political enemies like him personally. As one Democrat legislator said: “If you don’t like Billy Spivey’s conservative politics, that’s okay. But if you don’t like Billy Spivey, there’s something wrong with you.”
For good measure, Harwell served up “an anonymous Republican legislator” who said Spivey was just trying to divert attention away from a private trip he took two years ago. Uh, Spivey is retiring, you twits. Why the hell would he give two hoots and a holler about some trip he took years ago in connection with a job that ends in just a couple of months? That’s the best you got?
IN A LATE UDATE: Rocky Top tipsters close to the controversy claim that Scott Gilmer and McCord have been “burning up the phone” of the staffer who was abused. “Witness-tampering,” anyone?
Make no mistake. Harwell’s desperate and dishonest attack on Spivey is nothing more than triage. But sputtering statements alone will not be enough to rescue a long career that is now very much in jeopardy of coming to an end in a dishonorable and embarrassing manner.
Maybe she should try blackmail instead.