NASHVILLE — Tennessee Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Bill Hagerty has resigned from the board of the futures brokerage firm R.J. O'Brien & Associates following the firm's recent posts on social media platforms in support of African Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The company's posts were reported over the weekend by The National Pulse, a project of the conservative American Principles Project, and quickly drew fire from Hagerty's main Aug. 6 GOP primary rival, physician Manny Sethi.
In a since-deleted May 31 comment on Twitter, featured on The National Pulse's website, R.J. O'Brien & Associates had stated the company "stands proudly with the African American Community in support of EQUALITY & PEACE. #BLACKLIVESMATTER."
Sethi jumped in with his own tweet on Saturday, linking to the conservative website and stating, "Let me get this straight - At the exact same time @BillHagertyTN is running TV ads claiming he'll stand up to Black Lives Matter, his company is giving millions to BLM. #fraud."
Another conservative website, Breitbart, on Saturday quickly posted a resignation letter written by Hagerty to the company's CEO, Gerald Corcoran, with Breitbart noting Hagerty "made the decision to resign from the board of R.J. O'Brien when he found out the firm was actively promoting the Marxist BLM movement."
"I cannot in good conscience remain affiliated in any way with the promotion of a radical political movement that seeks to use this moment to overthrow the government and usher in Marxism," Hagerty wrote in the letter to Corcoran. "This movement wants to rip apart the fabric of our country and destroy many aspects of what makes America exceptional. I vehemently oppose their calls for violence and relentless march towards socialism. Please accept this as my resignation from R.J. O'Brien effective immediately."
A spokesperson for Hagerty's campaign had no further elaboration beyond the candidates' letter to Corcoran.
Hagerty, a businessman and investor, was President Donald Trump's U.S. ambassador to Japan until formally announcing his bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee.
Trump, who is staunchly backing Hagerty and restated that in a tweet just last week, announced last year that Hagerty would run and he was endorsing him before Hagerty publicly stated he was running or had even given notice to the U.S. State Department that he planned to leave the ambassadorial post.
Before becoming ambassador, Hagerty had listed the O'Brien & Associates' board membership, according to an executive branch disclosure, but resigned to take the federal post. The candidate's latest Senate financial disclosure, filed Friday, showed Hagerty had rejoined the company's board of directors in December.
In a later tweet, the Sethi campaign charged "this is simple: Bill Hagerty has been making money from a company giving money to Black Lives Matter, while his campaign has been spending millions of dollars pretending to oppose Black Lives Matter. He only resigned once he was caught. He's a hypocrite and a fraud, just like his buddy [Utah Sen.] Mitt Romney."
The Black Lives Matter Foundation was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a Black man, in Florida. The group describes itself as a global organization "whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes."
Early voting in the Aug. 6 election begins Friday across Tennessee. Other candidates in the contest include Memphis businessman and physician George Flinn.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an Ooltewah Republican, is among Hagerty's supporters while his predecessor, Republican Zack Wamp, is supporting Sethi. Both candidates have spent or have plans to spend significant sums for their efforts, according to their disclosures.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.