Democrat Phil Bredesen pushed back Wednesday night on the claim that he mishandled sexual harassment allegations when he was governor, in the sharpest of many points of contention during the last U.S. Senate debate in Knoxville.
From the start, Republican Marsha Blackburn hammered away with her latest campaign point: that, as governor, Bredesen covered up sexual harassment allegations against an aide.
“There was a path for friends of Phil where sexual harassment claims where handled and there was also the path for everyone else and, what happened?" Blackburn asked. "The voices of those women were shredded. They died in that shredder.”
Bredesen fought back, arguing his administration helped the victim by destroying handwritten notes of the incident. He added that his office acted promptly when the sexual harassment claim arose.
“We do not maintain notes of those because they are public records," Bredesen said. "The reason we don’t maintain notes is to protect the victim.”
Fact-checkers have reviewed the case and said Blackburn has "embellished on some of the detail." They rate the claim as "half true."
"Out of 30 cases, investigation notes were shredded in two prominent cases," Politifact wrote in a recent web post. "In both, the implicated officials were either demoted or resigned."
The candidates also answered questions on health care, the current political climate and even Trump’s proposal of a Space Force.
As expected, they disagreed on most of them. Blackburn tried to link Bredesen to top Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, and Bredesen insisted on his bipartisanship.
But they did agree on a few points, including enhancing the "red flag system," which is meant to identify potential gun buyers with mental health issues as part of their background checks. Bredesen said this could be one tool to prevent putting guns in the hands of people who are dangerous.
“Had such a thing been in place, there are two of the last three school shootings that I think could have been prevented," Bredesen said.
Blackburn also said she supports the enhancements, with some conditions.
"I fully believe we can protect the Second Amendment and we can protect guns — your right to own a gun," Blackburn said.
It was a rare point of agreement for the two candidates but not the only one. Blackburn and Bredesen also offered praise for Sen. Bob Corker, whom they're vying to replace.
Both candidates gave him an A rating.