The Look in Brief

Former state lawmaker Sheila Butt sued for defamation

By: - June 23, 2022 3:34 pm
Former GOP state representative and current candidate for county mayor Sheila Butt with her husband, Stan. (Photo: Sheila Butt for Mayor Facebook)

Former GOP state representative and current candidate for county mayor Sheila Butt with her husband, Stan. (Photo: Sheila Butt for Mayor Facebook)

(Story updated June 24 with comment from Butt added.)

Former Republican state representative Sheila Butt, now a candidate for Maury County mayor, has been sued for defamation of character by another mayoral candidate. 

David Baker, a minister and former volunteer chaplain at the Maury County Jail, filed suit in Maury County Circuit Court on Wednesday, alleging Butt defamed him through text messages to Republican activist Rick Williams and that Butt knew the allegations were false. 

Baker’s attorney, James Roberts of Dickson, submitted as evidence a screenshot of a text message allegedly sent by Butt, that insinusates Baker was involved in “something about fraud and a man committing suicide.”

“At the time the false statements were made, Ms. Butt acted with actual malice with the intent of harming Mr. Baker,” the suit asserts. “As a result of these false and defamatory statements, Mr. Baker’s reputation and standing in the community was damaged.”

06222022 Complaint for Defamation

In a press release sent by Baker’s campaign on Wednesday announcing the suit, Baker stated that Butt refused to acknowledge a cease and desist letter, prompting the legal filing. 

Baker and Butt, along with former Maury County Mayor Charlie Norman, are running to replace first term incumbent Mayor Andy Ogles. Ogles is running for the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District and dropped out of the mayor’s race in April.

All three candidates are running as independents in the Aug. 4 election. 

Butt was elected to represent District 64 in 2010. She did not run for re-election in 2018. During her tenure in office, she courted controversy several times, once in 2015 when she posted on her Facebook page that the country needed a Council of Christian Relations and an NAAWP.

The post came in response to an open letter from the Council on American-Islamic Relations urging voters in 2016 elections to reject Islamophobia. In response to criticism, Butt responded that the ‘W’ in NAAWP did not stand for ‘white,’ but rather for ‘Western.’

Butt also opposed exceptions to waiting periods for abortion, saying during a 2015 House debate that instances of rape and incest were “not verifiable” and thus merited no exceptions. 

Roberts is asking on Baker’s behalf for a trial in the suit. 

On her candidate Facebook page, Butt wrote: I have seen the letter from David Baker and have consulted my attorneys. We will be prepared to respond. This is pure political theatre at its worst. I am so sorry that David would stoop to this tactic. It does make me question his confidence, courage and character. I have never and never would defame another candidate. I have a higher Person to account to and KNOW that I will be held accountable to Him. Those of you who know me, know that.”

I am going to invoke my Mother’s favorite old saying here: “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig loves it.”

 

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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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