State Rep. Brian Richey on Tennessee Capitol Riot: Justin Jones’ Plan Was to Make National News

Apr 5, 2023

Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed State Representative Brian Richey (R-Maryville) in studio to talk about last week’s unprecedented riot at the Tennessee Capitol and the vote to expel the three left-wing legislators that instigated it.

Leahy: In studio, State Representative Brian Ritchey from Blount County. It’s his first term up there. He’s a freshman state legislator a little bit more on your background. You do a lot in the arena of hunting. You’ve got a television program as well. Tell us about that.

Richey: Yes. My brother and I started running around with the video camera, grew up hunting, and fishing, and started filming our hunts years and years ago, decades ago. And I looked over at my brother one day and said, hey, we oughta take it and start putting some of this stuff together for other folks to see.

And we were the number one new show on the Pursuit Channel. We are top 10 percent out of all the shows on the network our first year out of the gate. We have been on Sportsman Channel, travel all over the country, and enjoy going out to the Rockies and chasing elk and black bears up in Maine to alligator hunting down in Florida.

Leahy: So is this a weekly show? How often is this show?

Richey: It’s airing quarters three and four. So it’s July through December, and it’s weekly.

Leahy: Got it. So you’ve got multiple streams of income. So the decline of your business selling natural deer urine to hunters was caused by laws passed here in 2019. Although that’s really what hurt the revenue of that business, you have multiple streams of income.

Ritchey: Correct.

Leahy: What’s it been like to be a freshman member of the Tennessee House of Representatives?

Ritchey: It’s been a learning curve. I’ve enjoyed all the conversations up there. Coming in and wanting to represent the constituents back in the district and whenever folks are out there campaigning or talking to the voters, and they’re sharing what they’re wanting to do.

But the one thing that they never end up sharing with anybody is, hey, if you vote for me in five or six years, I’ll start being effective. And that’s essentially what they try telling all the freshmen when they come in. Hey, you want to be quiet your first year, and you want to listen and learn about what’s going on.

And the longer that you’re in here, you’ll figure it out, and then you’ll be a lot more effective. And if I campaigned on telling people, hey, give me a couple of years, three years, four years before I can get some stuff done, nobody would elect me.

Nobody would elect anybody else if that was the case. The system, I’ve seen from the inside now that it’s a little construed from that standpoint to where it’s not getting a broad representation of what the constituents want.

I’ve run a lot of legislation this year that was important to primary voters that showed up, and volunteered in my campaign to get out there and turn out the votes to have this overwhelming victory that we had.

Leahy: Sixty-five to 35 over an incumbent. Congratulations. Let’s talk a little bit about what happened last week. It was wild. There was a protest that basically turned into a riot. And three Democrat members of the House of Representatives, Justin Jones, a freshman from Nashville, Justin Pearson, not only a freshman, but won a special election and was only sworn in back in February, and Gloria Johnson from Knoxville.

While this the protest that became a riot was going on outside, they were in the House chamber and violated, oh, I don’t know, more than a dozen rules of the House. Grabbed a bullhorn, went up, took it over, and incited a riot, according to the speaker. What were you thinking when you saw this going on up there?

Richey: And I looked at it a little bit differently than everybody. I was there, I was present. Thousands of folks showed up voicing their unhappiness and yelling and hooping and hollering and screaming.

Which is covering the First Amendment and all that stuff was fine. What was the inappropriate part was when you had three members on the House floor just completely disregard all rules of procedure when it comes to the floor.

And it was premeditated to the standpoint that they brought a bullhorn in there to be able to razz up the folks that were in the gallery. Everybody that was there, other than just being loud, there were no issues. I walked through, and they were yelling and screaming, which is fine.

All that stuff taking place. There was no disrespect or anything coming from there. But when you got three members that go up there in between bills, and we had 43 bills on the calendar, there wasn’t one bill that had anything to do with guns, schools, nothing on the agenda. That was just their opportunity to grandstand and be able to take over the show and raise up the elevation of the folks that were there protesting, which was completely uncalled for.

Leahy: What’s interesting to me is you told me that you’re a freshman, Justin Jones is a freshman, and you had a conversation with Justin Jones,

Richey: Yes. I caught spoke to him actually just yesterday. Everything’s been boiling up and taking place, and I called him in there, and I let him know, I said, hey, what you did 100 percent was uncalled for. It was disrespectful, and he was smiling and said, y’all made us almost national heroes.

We’re on CNN, the White House is talking about us. He said, y’all, we’re gonna be martyrs because of this right here. I walked away from that conversation that he was excited about that he did this and that he was getting kicked out. I think it’s all part of his initial plan and to make national news. He’s basically an activist on the inside.

Leahy: He’s not a serious person in the sense of being a serious legislator.

Richey: Correct.

Leahy: There was a resolution passed to kick all three of them out and expel them in a vote on Thursday. And that was, I think it was a 72-23.

Richey: Yes. So the motion was made on Monday evening, and then that has to lay over one day before it can be taken up. That’ll be voted on tomorrow morning.  In the morning, not in the evening.

Richey: Tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

Leahy: And they will have an opportunity to defend themselves.

Richey: They’ll get to get up there and plead their case and share what was going on or what was in their heads. I have no clue. We can ask questions. So it’s a trial by your peers, so to speak.

Leahy: But it’s pretty cut and dry that they broke virtually many rules of the House.

Richey: In 225 years, I don’t believe there’s ever been a situation where he had one member, much less multiple members, come up there and create such a disturbance on the House floor that the speaker had to gavel us into recess, and we had to take almost an hour break to be able to get the folks that were there protesting up in the gallery out of the gallery sections. That way we could go back to doing the people’s work.

Leahy: So Justin Jones is happy with this conduct because it’s elevated him to being on CNN and being talked about in the White House.

Richey: To be a national star.

Leahy: This seems to be confirmation that he’s just not a serious person in the sense of being a serious legislator.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Brian Richey” by Brian Richey. Background Photo “Justin Jones” by Tennesse Holler.