In bidding farewell to the state House Tuesday, Rep. Rob Briley criticized the press for the “publishing of personal destruction” and called on the media for greater responsibility.
“The right to a free and open press though comes with a responsibility, and from my experience over the past year, that responsibility is not being lived up to,” Briley (D-Nashville) said from the main House podium.
“We used to talk about the politics of personal destruction. Well that’s no longer what’s going on. It’s the publishing of personal destruction, and we owe it to ourselves to do better than that. We owe it to the rest of our society to do better than that.”
Late last year, Briley was the center of the Nashville media’s attention after he was arrested and later convicted of DUI and charged with felony evading arrest for leading police on a 100-plus-mph high-speed chase. The felony charge was suspended.
A police video was released chronicling the traffic stop, in which Briley made suicidal threats, and the incident occurred at roughly the same time Briley was going through a divorce and allegations of marital infidelity.
Briley, a self-acknowledged alcoholic, later went to rehab and is not seeking re-election to his House District 52 seat.
Briley said that government needs to be “as open as possible.”
“But the press needs to understand that if they’re not responsible with that information, that they’re not going to have access to it anymore,” Briley said.
In addition to the mainstream press, Briley criticized bloggers, remarking that “just because you say it, doesn’t make it true.”
Prior to bashing the media, Briley thanked his two children, legislators past and present, Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis) and House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington).
“Speaker Naifeh, I could never say enough good things about you,” Briley said. “We experienced I think a lot of the same things. People have said a few nasty things about me over the past year. I know you’ve had that experience being up here as well. And you’ve shown me the strength to get through that, the guidance to get through that, and I thank you for that and I love you.”
Besides Briley, other lawmakers bidding farewell included Rep. Randy Rinks (D-Savannah), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Rep. Phillip Pinion (D-Union City), the chairman of the House Transportation Committee.