Entries in Tennessee (11)


TN State Senator Refuses to Apologize for Pressure Cooker Joke

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- A Tennessee state senator is refusing to apologize for what many are calling a "tasteless" joke about pressure cookers in his blog in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Republican State Sen. Stacey Campfield posted a photo of a pressure cooker with "Assault Pressure Cooker (APC)" printed below it. The photo had labels and arrows pointing to all of the pot's "dangerous" features including a "muzzle break thingy that goes 'up'" and a "tactical pistol grip." It's also described as "large-capacity, can cook for hours without reloading" and the color was "evil, black."

The blog post was titled, "Here comes Feinstein again," an apparent dig at Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of the leading proponents in the battle for gun control. The image implied that pressure cookers might be her next target.

Two pressure cookers were turned into bombs in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260 people.

Campfield dismisses the criticism.

"I think it's tasteless when Obama will drag everybody he can up to Capitol Hill and try to pass gun control," Campfield told Wednesday. "I think that was classless and tasteless. I don't hear them complaining about that too much."

"I was showing the hypocrisy of Diane Feinstein, the gun grabbers, of their inability to realize that it is a person that does activity, not an inanimate object, be it a gun or a pressure cooker," he said.

Campfield also posted a follow-up post on his blog titled, "Inappropriate? Me? Never!"

He wrote that he had gotten a call from the media inquiring about the blog being called "inappropriate."
"Really?" Campfield wrote. "If my post was inappropriate talking about 'crock pot control' then where is the outrage from the left when they push for gun control after the Sandy Hook shooting? Im [sic] sorry if I exposed your double standard....Well, not really."

Dozens of people commented on the pressure cooker post and its follow-up post, both condemning and supporting the senator.

"What kind of insensitive imbecile thinks it's okay to post a picture like this? Do you think it's a joke? Three people dead, one an eight year old child and you think it's something to laugh about?" one person wrote.

Another defended it by writing, "Nowhere in this post do I see anyone laughing over death. The post is about double standards."

Campfield has not been the only lawmaker in trouble for seemingly insensitive comments.

During the manhunt for the bombing suspects on April 19 that put Boston on lockdown, Arkansas Republican State Rep. Nate Bell tweeted, "I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine? #2A."

Bell pulled the tweet and apologized after a barrage of criticism.

"I would like to apologize to the people of Boston & Massachusetts for the poor timing of my tweet earlier this morning," he posted on Facebook. "As a staunch and unwavering supporter of the individual right to self defense, I expressed my point of view without thinking of its effect on those still in time of crisis."

Bell said he regretted the "poor choice of timing."

Campfield is no stranger to criticism for his opinions. He was behind a failed bill that proposed reducing welfare assistance for kids with low grades in school and authored a controversial bill that would prohibit teachers from discussing any sexuality aside from heterosexuality up until the eighth grade.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Steve Cohen Confesses to Secret Daughter -- Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., was spotted trading tweets with a young woman during the State of the Union address and his “ilu” signoffs -- digital shorthand for "I love you" -- prompted inquiries into the identity of the congressman’s tweet mate.

Cohen, who initially told WMC-TV in Memphis, Tenn., that the woman was the daughter of a friend, has now confessed that the woman -- Victoria Brink -- is his daughter whom he learned about three years ago.

Cohen, who is not married, conducted a private briefing in his office with reporters from NBC and CBS Thursday evening to set the record straight.

“I googled her mother, found out she had a child and the math looked pretty accurate,” Cohen told reporters in his office, according to NBC’s  account of the briefing.  “The mom told me we had a lot of catching up to do.”

Cohen, 63, said he has taken his daughter, who is 24 and an aspiring swimsuit model, on a tour of the Capitol and to a White House Christmas party.

After trading tweets with Brink Tuesday night, Cohen quickly deleted the posts.  But the tweets were archived by Politwoops.  Brink has also deleted the tweets she traded with Cohen.

When Brink notified Cohen that she was watching the president’s address, the congressman replied, “pleased you are watching. ilu.”  Cohen followed up with “nice to know you were watchin SOTU(state of the union).Happy Valentines beautiful girl. ilu.”

Cameras inside the House chamber spotted Cohen using his phone during the president’s address.

Michael Pagan, the congressman’s communications director, did not immediately return phone calls or emails on Friday.  An aide answering the phone in Cohen’s congressional office said Pagan was unavailable.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Tennessee Sex Ed Bans Mention of "Gateway Sexual Behavior"

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- If marijuana is the gateway drug, are kissing and handholding the gateway to sexual activity?

That's currently up for debate, now that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law the controversial bill that would ban teachers from discussing any so-called gateway sexual activity like genital touching in sex education courses, as reported on Friday by the Nashville Tennessean.

Sex education in Tennessee schools already takes a stance emphasizing abstinence, but the newly signed HB 3621/SB 3310 will now require sex ed to "exclusively and emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student's prior sexual experience."

What's more, educators are prohibited from discussing non-coital sexual activity such as genital touching as an alternative to sex, which legislators have designated as the offending "gateway" sexual behavior. Outside instructors or organizations who do discuss gateway sexual behavior in a sex ed class can be fined $500, according to the law.

The bill was passed by the House last month with 68 votes for it and 23 against it, after easily clearing the Senate at 29 votes to one.

Supporters of the bill, such as the pro-marriage organization Family Action Council of Tennessee, say it offers a much-needed clarification of the moral and societal consequences of sex outside of marriage, and that previous sex ed programs allowed the promotion of certain kinds of sexual behavior such as oral sex as alternatives to sexual intercourse.

"Everybody in this room knows what gateway sexual activity is," said state Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, in his testimony to the Tennessee House of Representatives. "Everybody knows there are certain buttons when you push them, certain switches when you turn them on, there's no stopping, especially for undisciplined, untrained, untaught and unraised children who just want to feel affection from somebody or anybody."

But detractors say that the definition of gateway sexual behavior are vague enough that teachers' hands are tied even when it comes to discussing more innocent behavior like kissing or hand-holding.

The Planned Parenthood Federation said in a statement that "Tennessee students need more information about puberty, their own bodies and proven methods that prevent pregnancy and the spread of disease. Denying them this prevention information in order to exclusively promote abstinence until marriage does our students a serious disservice."

Haslam's office did not immediately return calls requesting comment.

Family Action Council President David Fowler, who drafted helped draft the bill, told the website that the definition of "gateway sexual activity" is akin to the definition of "sexual contact" according to the state's criminal law, which refers to the "intentional touching" of "the primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast of a human being."

Kissing and handholding are notably absent from the criminal definition of sexual contact.

Tennessee's debate over gateway sexual behavior spurred a firestorm of debate and sometimes ridicule.

Steven Colbert poked fun at the legislation on his show "The Colbert Report," saying that "kissing and hugging are just the last stop before the train pulls into Groin Central Station. We desperately need to intervene earlier keep kids from engaging in ... all the things that lead to the things that lead to sex."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Wins in Tenn., Okla., N.D.; Ohio Still Too Tight to Call

Whitney Curtis/Getty Images(STEUBENVILLE, Ohio) -- While Mitt Romney has won four Super Tuesday contests and Rick Santorum has won three so far, all eyes are fixed on a close race in Ohio, where the two are locked in a tight race.

The contest in Ohio, where polls closed at 7:30 p.m. ET, was too close to predict a winner based on exit polls.

Romney won handily in Virginia, where he was the only candidate on the ballot aside from Ron Paul; in Massachusetts, the state he governed; and in Vermont, which neighbors the Bay State. He also won the Idaho caucuses.

Santorum triumphed in Tennessee, a southern state in which his conservative message has resonated, and in Oklahoma, the reddest state in the union. In both states, voters who called themselves religious and very conservative lifted Santorum over Romney, who has struggled for months to persuade the right wing of the party that he's right for them. He also won the caucuses in North Dakota.

"We have won in the West, the Midwest and the South, and we're ready to win across this country," Santorum told enthusiastic supporters in Ohio as the vote there was being counted.

The former Pennsylvania senator added, excitedly: "In every case, we overcame the odds. Here in Ohio, still too close to call."

ABC News also projects that, as expected, Newt Gingrich will win the only Super Tuesday state to which he gave attention -- his home state of Georgia, which he represented as a member of Congress.

In a victory speech in Atlanta, Gingrich called himself the "tortoise" who will win the nomination and mocked the attention given to Santorum after the ex-senator won three primaries in states that the other candidates had mostly ignored.

"The news media, once again, desperate to prove Gingrich was wrong, suddenly said, 'Ah, now we have the person who's going to be the non-Romney,' " Gingrich said.

Making his pitch to his supporters, Gingrich called himself "the one candidate who can debate Barack Obama," drawing on one of his noteworthy strengths that has been evident in the nearly two dozen GOP primary debates.

The most contested and watched vote is in the swing state of Ohio, where Santorum led in the polls until just a few days ago. Now the race is as good as a tie, and the winner there will most likely be deemed the winner of Super Tuesday expectations.

Exit polls found that more than half of voters said Romney was the candidate most fit to beat President Obama. But when asked which candidate "best understands the problems of average Americans," fewer than one-quarter of voters picked Romney. About one-third chose Santorum in that category.

The candidates are fighting for 437 delegates just Tuesday, more than all the delegates that have been won already. Romney is in the lead with 203, and Santorum is in a solid second place with 92. The race ends once a candidate gets 1,144.

Georgia offers the most delegates in Tuesday's voting with 76. Other big states are Ohio (66), Tennessee (58), Virginia (49) and Oklahoma (43). Three other states voting in caucuses Tuesday award fewer -- Idaho, North Dakota and Alaska.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gingrich Campaign Launches Santorum Attack Robo-call in Two States

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is hunkering down in the trenches of the Southern battleground for Super Tuesday with a robo-call attacking Rick Santorum for being a “big labor conservative.”

This is the first paid advertisement against Santorum from the Gingrich campaign. The call is set to begin Friday in Oklahoma and Tennessee and will reach 150,000 households in each state.

The robo-call, narrated by a woman, was recorded Thursday. The ad begins by saying Santorum “talks a good game” about his blue collar roots, and that he doesn’t want you to know Santorum “cozied up to the labor union bosses” and voted against a national right-to-work bill that would have let workers opt out of paying union dues. “Union dues that hurt families and small businesses. Rick Santorum, friend of working families or the union bosses pal? You decide.”

Since venturing to Tennessee and Georgia for a week of campaigning, Gingrich has attacked Santorum in speeches at various campaign stops. On Thursday he urged voters not to vote for “Pennsylvania big labor baloney.” Gingrich’s daughter Jackie and former presidential candidate Herman Cain will travel to Tennessee next Tuesday. Later in the week Jackie, Cain and J.C. Watts will travel to Oklahoma to campaign for Gingrich.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney In Georgia and Tennessee Ahead of Super Tuesday?

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Though Mitt Romney is trailing in the polls in a series of Southern states holding contests on Super Tuesday, his campaign says it plans to make an in-person play for delegates in at least two of them.

Romney is hoping to peel away some delegates from opponents Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in states that are not necessarily ripe for Romney wins: Georgia and Tennessee.

Tentatively, Romney plans to make stops in the Knoxville, Tennessee area and Atlanta this weekend, just days before next Tuesday’s primaries. Georgia and Tennessee are two of 10 states where voters will go to the polls on Super Tuesday — a day when there are a total of 437 delegates at stake.

“No states are monolithic,” a Romney aide told ABC News, “there are different of pockets of opportunity in these areas.”

Campaign strategists say they see opportunities to over-perform in the eastern part of Tennessee, which includes the tri-cities area — a region that borders Virginia and where John McCain and Mike Huckabee each ran strong four years ago.

The campaign also sees a chance to pick up delegates in the greater Atlanta area. Romney won the five counties surrounding Atlanta in Georgia’s 2008 primary.

Romney came in third in both states four years ago, behind Huckabee and McCain, and according to recent polling, the former Massachusetts governor faces an uphill battle again this year.

In Tennessee, a poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State University shows Santorum with a 20 percentage point lead over Romney, 42 percent to 19 percent. And in Georgia, surveys give Gingrich the edge with Santorum and Romney trailing behind. Gingrich has been crisscrossing Georgia ahead of the primary there and Santorum has visited both states already this week.

Georgia congressional districts are winner take all, so if a candidate wins a district he receives three delegates out of a statewide total of 76. In Tennessee, three delegates are also awarded in each of the state’s nine congressional districts, but they are allocated proportionally based on the popular vote within each district. Fifty-eight delegates are at stake there.

On Super Tuesday, the Romney campaign is counting on victories in Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia with other states, like Ohio, which represents the second-largest delegate prize of the day, up for grabs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Meets Mixed Crowd, Gets Booed at Tennessee College

Steve Pope/Getty Images(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Rick Santorum faced a mixed crowd Wednesday evening as many of his go-to talking points, which typically garner applause and cheers, were met with resistance on the campus of Belmont University.

Packed into a gymnasium at the Curb Event Center, the crowd, which was comprised primarily of college-aged students, received a lecture of sorts from Santorum warning about the restrictions and dangers of President Obama’s health care plan.

When Santorum began to talk about the implementation of the healthcare plan in 2014, a point in his stump speech, which normally receives boos, Santorum was met with resounding cheers from a portion of the crowd who support Obama’s plan.  The other half of the crowd tried to quell the applause with loud boos of their own.

The resistance to Santorum’s speech did not stem solely from his disdain for the president’s healthcare plan.  The mere mention of the uprising of the Tea Party across America elicited an additional round of boos from the crowd.

When Santorum explained the reasons the Constitution was drafted, a member of the crowd shouted “To protect us from you!” to some laughter from the crowd.  Santorum ignored the heckler and said the Constitution was intended to protect Americans’ inalienable rights.

Throughout the speech, several members of the crowd waved signs bearing the names of Santorum’s opponents -- Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.  A handful of students interjected during Santorum’s speech with loud laughs and shouts.

But Santorum’s speech was not completely met with opposition.  The crowd cheered when Santorum discussed the creation of health saving accounts, the vision of people’s ancestors to come to America to escape oppression, and the sacrifices made by troops serving abroad.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Surge Extends to Super Tuesday States, Polling Shows

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Rick Santorum’s surge is not just limited to Michigan.  New polls out on Monday in Ohio and Tennessee, two big Super Tuesday states, show Rick Santorum with strong leads over Mitt Romney.

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Santorum leading Romney in Ohio 36 percent to 29 percent.  The poll shows that Santorum has a double-digit lead with men in the Buckeye state -- 38 percent to 25 percent -- while women split their support almost evenly, with 34 percent favoring Santorum and 33 percent favoring Romney.

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul round out the poll with 17 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

A Vanderbilt University poll out in Tennessee gives Santorum a double-digit lead over Romney -- 38 percent to 20 percent.  Paul received 15 percent in the poll, while Gingrich got 13 percent. The remaining 13 percent of those polled said they were still unsure.

Santorum has strong support over Romney among both men and women in Tennessee; 39 percent of women polled support Santorum while 22 percent support Romney, and 38 percent of men support Santorum, compared with 18 percent for Romney.

Tennessee and Ohio are set to hold their primaries on March 6. Tennessee will award 58 delegates and Ohio will give out 66.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama to Make Commencement Speech in Waterlogged Memphis

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The graduating class at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tenn., has won a commencement speech by President Obama during their graduation ceremony this spring.

The high school is in an impoverished area close to the site of Martin Luther King's assassination and where Benjamin Hooks, the late head of the NAACP, attended high school. Memphis has been hit hard by recent flooding, as well.

For the second year of the administration’s annual “Commencement Challenge,” schools were asked to submit a video demonstrating their commitment to preparing students for college and a career. Booker T. Washington’s video opened to show housing projects being torn down in black-and-white and highlighted how the community and the school rebuilt and helped students gain confidence and skills to graduate.

Six finalists were selected for their “creativity in engaging and supporting students, academic results, and progress in preparing students to graduate college and career ready,” the White House said. Of the final three finalists, chosen by votes online, the president chose the final winner personally.

Some of the school’s progress the White House hailed when making the announcement today -- Booker T. Washington High School’s graduation rate went from 55 percent in 2007 to 81.6 percent in 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Senate's Number Three Republican Announces Support for START

Photo Courtesy - Alexander [dot] Senate [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Another GOP senator came out in favor of the START pact Tuesday -- and it’s no less than the chamber’s number three Republican.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he will vote in favor of ratification.

“I will vote to ratify the treaty because it leaves our countries with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to Kingdom Come,” Alexander said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“In short, I’m convinced that Americans are safer and more secure with the new START treaty than without it,” he noted.

Alexander said he and three other senators had written to President Obama earlier this week asking the president to include funding for nuclear modernization in his budget requests to Congress and Monday the president sent a reply letter agreeing to the request.

Alexander's vote is a big boost for Democrats -- the treaty now appears likely to pass later this week, barring a last-minute setback.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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