NASHVILLE — "Absolutely ridiculous."
That's what a top aide to Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said of a call by former White House strategist Steve Bannon for the Tennessee senator resign.
"It is absolutely ridiculous and does not merit a response," Todd Womack, Corker's chief of staff, said on Tuesday.
Bannon's call came amid an escalating war, often via Twitter, between Corker, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the president.
Bannon's remarks came Monday night during an appearance on Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity's program.
Bannon said Corker should "resign immediately" if he had "any honor or decency" and went on to say "Corker, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and the entire establishment, globalist clique have to go."
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders followed up on a Trump Sunday tweet accusing Corker of having worked with Democrats to make the Obama administration's nuclear deal happen.
But both Factcheck.org and The Associated Press reported that charge as false, with Corker opposing the deal, saying it should have been done as a treaty, requiring Senate approval. The senator pushed an effort to derail it with a measure to require Senate review and an ability to kill it. Efforts to quash President Barack Obama's agreement failed when Corker and other opponents could muster only 58 of the required 60 votes to torpedo it.
Trump and Corker's estrangement began in August when the senator told Chattanooga Rotary Club members that Trump had "yet" to demonstrate the "stability" and "competence" and "stability" required of a president.
That followed Trump's equivocal remarks about the death of a counter protester at a demonstration by white nationalists protesting removal of a Confederate war memorial in Charlottesville, Va.
It's gone down hill ever since.
Most Tennessee Republican congressional members are not exactly rushing to the Chattanoogan's defense in the escalating war of words.
And one, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who is running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, on Tuesday criticized Corker's tweet about the White House becoming an adult daycare center.
Telling conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that Corker's comments had not been helpful, Black said, "Look, if you talk about an adult daycare center, I'm sorry, but I think the Senate is an adult daycare center. They can't get anything done over there."
Black went on to say that "I'm not sure that all of this throwing these words back and forth to one another are really very helpful. And I think the American people don't really appreciate the way people that are supposed to be in charge of this country are acting. Those types of conversations can take place behind closed doors if they want to talk that way to one another."
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was the lone Republican member of the Tennessee delegation vocally sticking up for Corker, although he avoided all mention of Trump or the flap.
"I work with Bob Corker nearly every day," Alexander said in a statement. "I agree with Peyton Manning that I wish Bob would stay in office until he was 100 years old."
Manning, a former NFL and University of Tennessee star quarterback, made favorable comments about Corker and Alexander as well when he ended speculation he might seek Corker's seat in 2018.
Corker's hometown congressman, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., stated in response to an inquiry that he has "a good working relationship with both Trump and Corker.
"I am focused on my job representing the people of the Third District of Tennessee," Fleischmann added.
The five other Tennessee Republican congressmen either didn't respond to requests for comment or their staff noted they were out of pocket.
Brent Leatherwood, a former executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, defended Corker.
"I've often found in politics that people try to score cheap political points when they can't criticize on substance or on character," Leatherwood said. "Sen. Corker is an incredibly honorable man and anyone seeking to impugn that is fighting a losing battle."
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.