Bredesen Brags of ‘Zero Tolerance’ Harassment Policy as Tennessee Governor

All reporting indicates major issues with Bredesen's handling of abuse claims

Phil Bredesen
Phil Bredesen / Getty Images
• October 2, 2018 2:00 pm


Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen told voters during a Monday night event that he had a "zero tolerance policy" for workplace harassment as the state's governor, but all reporting indicates that this was not the case.

Bredesen, who was Tennessee's governor from 2003 to 2011 and is now running for U.S. Senate, defended himself from criticism from Republican opponent Marsha Blackburn for his handling of harassment claims as governor.

"Both as mayor and governor, I had a zero tolerance policy with any kind of harassment of women," Bredesen said. "Whenever this has happened in my purview it's been something I've come down on very, very hard."

Bredesen's claim during the event flies in the face of reported facts during his tenure as governor, when reporters caught his administration covering up details of sexual harassment allegations and helping the accused land jobs elsewhere.

Most egregious in the findings was the Bredesen administration's practice of shredding documentation of the accusations, which was found by both The Tennessean and the Associated Press to be done only when the accused were high-profile members of the administration.

The most public case came with Mack Cooper, who was Bredesen's top lobbyist in the governor's office before he was fired for violating the state's workplace harassment policy. All the details of Cooper's offense were shredded.

Bredesen insisted the decision to shred documents wasn't part of a "cover up," but acknowledged he had no way of proving that. He eventually ordered his administration to put an end to its practice of shredding documentation in harassment cases.

Bredesen also appeared to push back against a comment he made regarding sexual harassment in 2005 when he said, "Anytime you mix men and women together in a work environment there's going to be issues."

During the Monday night event he said he has no problem with having women in the workplace.

"I think women are absolutely entitled to be in the workplace, out in society, and be respected, avoid being treated as sex objects," Bredesen said during the Monday night event.

Bredesen's campaign did not respond to a request for information to back up claims of his "zero tolerance policy."

Bredesen's Monday night remarks appeared to be in response to a new ad from Republicans labeling him "Shredesen" and calling his treatment of harassment claims "shameful" and "disgusting."

The ad points to numerous instances of sexual harassment claims mishandled by Bredesen, such as a time when a woman was told her "resignation" would be accepted if she wanted to quit.

Published under: 2018 Election, Phil Bredesen