Tag Archives: Ray Blanton

Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal

This book, by Keel Hunt, recounts the story of how a scandal plagued Tennessee governor was relieved of his duties so the recently elected candidate, of the opposition party, could be sworn in early.

It is an excellent story of a democracy’s triumph, but important to that triumph are the news organizations that investigated allegations against the governor.

After Ray Blanton, a Democrat, was elected governor, the publisher of the Tennessee Journal discovered that a convicted double murderer was working as a photographer for the state of Tennessee. The felon had served only a couple of months of his sentence. Governor Ray Blanton had apparently gotten the murderer a work-release status as a favor to a friend.

Reporters of other news organizations began investigating. When asked repeatedly about the case, Blanton became defiant, at one point vowing he would not “answer any more negative questions.”

As questions persisted and news organizations continued probing, other dubious practices by Blanton came to light. Eventually, he was voted out of office, losing to Lamar Alexander. (Alexander now serves as one of Tennessee’s congressional senators.)

In his last days in office, Blanton began signing papers to pardon some prisoners and offer clemency for others. This included the commutation of sentences for several murderers. In order to avoid a continuance of what was termed “cash for clemency,” his own Democratic party joined with Alexander’s Republican party to swear him in early.

Politicians put in a bad light, whether or not they are guilty as was Blanton, tend to dislike negative publicity. They dislike being put on the spot or to be annoyed.

Sometimes they lose control, as Greg Gianforte apparently did before he assaulted a reporter asking him a question about healthcare. He is recorded as screaming at the reporter, “I’m sick and tired of you guys.” Gianforte has since apologized, saying he “made a mistake.”

As far as I know, President Donald Trump has not apologized for calling certain leading American news organizations “the enemy of the American People.”

Having lived in countries where the news was managed and reporters could not ask those obnoxious questions, I have come to believe nosey reporters are as important to a democracy as are elections.