BY MAURA ZURICK ON 4/7/23 AT 9:38 PM EDT
fter Tennessee Republicans were accused of racism in their ousting of two Black Democrats, GOP Representative Bryan Richey defended the vote, claiming one of the expelled lawmakers, Justin Jones, told him that he wanted to be kicked out.
Jones and fellow former Democratic Representative Justin Pearson were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday, a week after they breached decorum while participating in a gun-control protest. An effort to remove Democratic Representative Gloria Johnson, who is white, failed by one vote.
The “Tennessee Three” have gone viral for speaking out of turn in support of a youth-led protest on gun control after the recent deadly shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville. The nation’s 129th mass shooting killed three 9-year-olds and three adults. It has reignited the gun-law debate across the country, particularly among Gen Z.
Richey, who voted to expel Jones but not Pearson or Johnson, said racism was not a factor. He said he believed the three Democrats deserved to be punished for their actions but was not in favor of removing any of them from the House.
Richey told Newsweek in an email that he and Jones spoke in his office this week where the Republican told his colleague that he felt the Democrats’ decorum breach did not warrant expulsion.
“I shared with him that I was in favor of them staying,” Richey said. “He communicated that he was receiving a lot of national attention and that the members of Metro Council said they planned on reappointing him. He shared that he didn’t care if I did vote yes because he was coming back. Throughout this conversation it felt like this is what he wanted to happen.”