Tennessee Dem apologizes, denies investigation amid claims

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Democratic Tennessee lawmaker is apologizing for having his behavior possibly misinterpreted after being accused of sexual misconduct.

However, Rep. Rick Staples — who’s from Knoxville — on Thursday says he’s not under investigation and described the recent allegations as “political character assassination.”

The allegations were first reported by The Tennessean on Wednesday, where a woman told the newspaper Staples inappropriately touched her. The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify the woman’s claims.

Shortly after the woman’s accusation was made public, Republican leaders told reporters Democratic leaders may have violated House ethics rules for waiting too long to report the possible misconduct.

Minority Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart says House rules prohibit him from discussing specifics about any possible investigation.

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