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Gloria Johnson, Badass Tennessee Democrat On Or Off Her Mobile Scooter
We can still dream that she’ll unseat Marsha Blackburn.
Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson, who’s running for US Senate, is not afraid to stand up for what’s right. However, sometimes she does need to sit. Johnson lives with myopathy, a disease that affects muscle movement and makes it difficult for her to walk long distances.
“Sometimes I use a scooter to get around the TN Capitol,” she posted last week on social media. “That’s because I’m disabled; it’s not a secret.”
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GOP Rep, Who Voted To Expel Tennessee Three, Expels Himself After Report Of Gross Workplace Harassment
We’ve come a long way since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt actively hid his own disability from the public, but even now in 2023, it’s impressive when a politician is so upfront about their mobility challenges.
Here’s a clip of Johnson on her scooter, dropping knowledge about why she was spared expulsion from the state House but her “Tennessee Three” colleagues Justin Pearson and Justin Jones were not. She didn’t pretend that Republicans simply had an issue with young men named “Justin.”
“I don’t think there's a question how those two young black men were spoken to was in a different manner than the way I was spoken to,” she said. “The representative who had questioned me multiple times kind of treated me as as you know someone beneath him as probably as a woman who just didn't know quite as much as he did —mansplaining so to speak, but it's a whole different attitude than the questioning I saw go to Rep. Pearson and Rep. Jones.”
Tennessee Republicans are uniformly awful, so it’s hardly surprising that they’d take cheap shots at Johnson’s disability. Last month, state Rep. Jody Barrett — self-proclaimed “sinner saved by grace” — denied mocking Johnson for using a scooter at the capitol. This was a lie, and when The Tennessee Holler confronted him, he rejected the opportunity to receive any grace and refused to apologize.
This goes beyond schoolyard taunts, though. When Republicans retaliated against the Tennessee Three for participating in a peaceful protest for gun safety, they first restricted their access to the Cordell Hull Legislative Office Building and member's parking garage. Johnson said her building access badge was deactivated so she was unable to retrieve her mobility scooter over the weekend. There was absolutely no need for this, but as always, the cruelty is the point.
A couple years ago, Johnson was confined to a glorified storage closet because slimeball House Speaker Cameron Sexton punished her for daring to disagree with him politically. There was literally a full-sized, normal House member office just across the hall from her.
This became an obvious ADA issue when she was diagnosed with myopathy and started using a scooter.
“You really couldn’t have gotten [the scooter inside the office] without running into anything and you certainly couldn’t store it there, and I had been told before you can’t put anything in the hallway so I was pretty much stuck on what to do,” she said.
Johnson requested a real office again in November 2021, and while Sexton had ignored repeated media inquiries into why he was bullying Johnson, the issue wasn’t fully resolved until January 2022. Sexton is obviously someone who can’t resist abusing his power.
“When my Republican colleagues see me in my scooter, some of them like to call me weak,” Johnson said. “But the fact is, nobody's weaker than Marsha Blackburn and the Tennessee GOP.”
It’s unfortunate that she has to call out this awful behavior from her supposed “peers,” but I’m glad she is. Johnson can stand up to Republican bullies just as powerfully from her scooter.
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