GOP Keeps Up Pressure as Bredesen Defends Record on Sexual Harassment

Bredesen trots out treasurer to defend record, fails to disclose her role in campaign

Phil Bredesen
Phil Bredesen / Getty Images
October 10, 2018

Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen is out with a new ad defending his handling of sexual harassment claims as governor with testimonials from women who worked with him, but Republicans immediately targeted it as part of a "cover-up" attempt.

Bredesen's Republican opponent, congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, took aim at Bredesen during their first debate for mishandling sexual harassment claims against his top administration officials, an issue covered closely by top outlets such as the Associated Press and the Tennessean when he was governor.

Despite the well-documented mishandling, which included shredding of all documentation of accusations, Bredesen responded with an ad calling Blackburn a "liar" and trotting out women to defend his record on sexual harassment. Here's the ad:

Republicans are responding to the ad by calling it a "cover-up," pointing to the well-documented problems with how Bredesen handled sexual harassment claims and by questioning whether a woman showcased in the ad could view Bredesen impartially given her role in the campaign.

Virginia Lodge, whose name is left out of the ad, serves as the Bredesen campaign's treasurer, according to campaign filings.

Her husband, lobbyist Dick Lodge, is the campaign's finance chairman, overseeing fundraising operations. His lobbying firm, Bass, Berry, and Sims, has been paid over $30,000 by Bredesen's campaign this year for "legal consulting."

The Tennessee Republican Party lays out these facts in its own video, released a day after Bredesen's ad calling Blackburn a liar.

Scott Golden, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, says the Bredesen ad is part of an attempted "cover-up."

"Phil Bredesen is refusing to own up to his own disastrous handling of sexual harassment allegations while governor," said Golden. "Does he believe the many reporters from the Associated Press and the Tennessean were liars too? Phil needs to take a long look in the mirror."

Lodge is the main voice featured in the ad. She defends Bredesen's record of shredding documentation of harassment claims, arguing, "The only shredding was to protect the privacy of victims of sexual harassment."

Bredesen hadn't previously defended the practice of shredding documents. His administration put an end to the practice after the press revealed it.

The Bredesen campaign did not respond to a request for an interview with Lodge and for comment on the Republican response.