WARNING: This video contains strong language.
Facing growing criticism of his decision to vote twice now to kill Gov. Haslam's Insure Tennessee legislation, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, engaged in a heated exchange with a protester Tuesday in which he called the protester an "a—— ."
"Senator, are you willing to give up your health insurance?" a protester asks in the video, taken in a corridor of the state capitol building 30 minutes after Tuesday's vote.
Gardenhire responds, "Why don't you give it up, a——?"
Protestors claim he said, "I'm not giving up, a—— !"
Gardenhire is one of several state senators who voted against the measure who also receive state-subsidized insurance.
The video was taken by East Ridge resident Trae Haggard, who was in on the Hill to demonstrate in support of Insure Tennessee.
"I was shocked he called a constituent that," Haggard said Wednesday.
Asked Wednesday about the exchange, Gardenhire said he was angered after one of the protesters followed him into the bathroom.
"When a guy follows you into the bathroom and starts shouting at you, he's lucky I only called him by his first name," Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire has been especially targeted by protesters since his initial vote against the measure earlier this session. Insure Tennessee advocates have held marches and protests outside of his downtown Chattanooga office, held a vigil outside of a Pachyderm Club meeting in which he was speaking, and carried signs with slogans like "Blood on Todd's Hands."
For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.