Commentary

Blackburn and Hagerty owe Tennesseans answers about their place on Giuliani’s call list

July 26, 2022 7:05 am
U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty speaking in Nashville on June 17 at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road t0 Majority" event which featured former President Donald Trump as the keynote speaker. (Photo: John Partipilo)

U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty speaking in Nashville on June 17 at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road t0 Majority” event which featured former President Donald Trump as the keynote speaker. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Televised hearings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol have produced some shocking moments. 

Testimony Thursday revealed that members of then-Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail made personal calls to family members at the height of the attack to tell them goodbye, so worried were they for their lives.

That they were afraid makes sense, since we also learned during June testimony that former President Donald Trump spoke approvingly of chants by his followers to “Hang Mike Pence!,” even as mob members erected gallows on the National Mall near the Capitol.

Watching the hearings is a lot, and you’re forgiven if you haven’t been able to stomach them. 

But if you skipped Thursday’s, you may have missed the revelation — which was not shocking to those of us who have followed the political careers of Tennessee’s Republican senators — that both U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Bill Hagerty, the latter of whom had only been sworn into office three days before the election, were on Trump consigliere Rudy Giuliani’s speed dial that day. 

Why? U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, said the Tennessee duo were part of a list considered “Trump’s closest allies,” and that Giuliani placed calls to them to ask them to slow walk the Senate vote to certify the 2020 presidential election. 

While not surprising, I’m not comforted to know not one, but both of our U.S. senators may have been on board with a scheme to overturn a free and fair election and the peaceful transfer of power. In short, Blackburn and Hagerty may have been part of a plot to overthrow the U.S. government. 

Prior to the time rioters burst through the doors of the Capitol, both had sworn to vote against certification. What might have made them change their minds at the last minute? Did Giuliani not reach them? Or did they get the fear of God after being hurried from the Senate chambers as rioters poured through the building, looking for congressmen and senators to attack? 

As I do my homework and like to give everyone a chance to respond or clarify their positions, I emailed both Blackburn and Hagerty’s press secretaries. 

In November 2020, Blackburn got herself into hot water with Trump loyalists after referring to Joe Biden as the “president-elect.” A spokeman for her later dialed back Blackburn’s words, saying the senator “misspoke.”

So in light of the newly-unearthed information about Giuliani’s list, I queried Blackburn’s press staffer about whether she had a conversation with Giuliani and if so, what the gist of it was; if, given her flip flop, does she believe the 2020 election was stolen, as many Republicans still do; and if she plans to support Trump should he run for president in 2024, as indications point to. (I also asked when Blackburn might hold her next public town hall in Tennessee: her last event here that was open to the public, and not a hand-picked group, was in February 2017.)

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaking at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority event June 17 in Nashville, (Photo: John Partipilo)
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaking at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority event June 17 in Nashville, (Photo: John Partipilo)

I asked Hagerty’s new press secretary similar questions but subbed in one about why Hagerty changed his mind and voted to certify the election, as well as one about the genesis of former press secretary Judd Deere’s recent departure.

Deere, who worked in the Trump White House before taking the top communications job with Hagerty, testified before the January 6th committee in March and left the senator’s staff in July.   His testimony was aired shortly after his resignation, a happenstance Deere told Axios Nashville was coincidental.

My deadline passed with no response. After my deadline passed, I received an email from Hagerty’s staff and pending a conversation, I’ll update this piece. 

But I have no expectation I’ll hear back from Blackburn’s staff with responses to my questions. Blackburn, in particular, has shown no willingness to engage with critical media outlets and Hagerty avails himself of every opportunity to be photographed with Trump. Most recently, both senators spoke at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” event in Nashville that was headlined by Trump, and Hagerty shared a photo of himself playing a round of golf with Trump the day after the event. 

The lack of willingness on the part of Blackburn and Hagerty to answer questions gives Tennesseans no choice but to judge their behavior on the public profiles, which indicate continued support for Trump, the man who tried to overthrow our country. 

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Holly McCall
Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. She has served as political analyst for WZTV Fox 17 and provided communications consulting for political campaigns at all levels, from city council to presidential. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.

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