Amid social media commentary and reports suggesting why Rep. Gloria Johnson was not expelled while two Black representatives were expelled, Rep. Lowell Russell (R-Vonore) said he voted not to expel Johnson because she “did not participate to the extent that Jones and Pearson did.”
Russell issued a statement on Friday explaining his vote by saying that all three representatives violated house rules and their conduct was unacceptable, and had all three of them participated the same, he would have voted to expel all three.
“Either Jones or Pearson smuggled a bullhorn into the chamber. The two used that bullhorn to shout and scream and incite the crowd to chant “no action, no peace”. The video showed Johnson did not appear to do anything other than stand near the Well and move her lips,” he said in the statement.
The video referenced in Russell’s statement is the video presented to the House at the beginning of the expulsion hearings showing Johnson, Jones, and Pearson on the house floor. Although it was debated if the video was taken before or after recess was called, and speaking outside of the house.
There was heated debate between representatives about if the video should have been allowed to be played, as the motion to play it did not clearly explain what the video was or if it had been edited. An additional argument against the video being played was that the representatives who were facing expulsion and House leadership had not been allowed to view it first. When the vote was taken, the motion to play the video passed, and the video was viewed on the house floor.
Lowell concluded the statement explaining that Tennessee needs to look for better ways to prevent killings, like the Covenant School shooting, but the process must be approached by legislators in a better way.
“The way those three went about addressing the murders was not an effective approach to prevent future murders. All three were elected legislators that can file bills and pass laws to address any concerns they have. Instead, they chose to make that day about themselves instead of working with other legislators to be effective in their intent.” Lowell said in the statement.