Comments on diversity, misnaming late Tennessee mayor draw criticism to Senator Janice Bowling

Tennessee Senator Janice Bowling, a republican from Tullahoma, appeared in a video that drew criticism. She could be heard referring to the city’s late mayor, Lonnie Norman, by the wrong name.
A Tennessee senator is facing criticism after a video posted to social media shows her making...
A Tennessee senator is facing criticism after a video posted to social media shows her making comments on diversity initiatives and calling a late mayor by the wrong name.(Jed DeKalb | TN GA)
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:39 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Tennessee senator is facing criticism after a video posted to social media shows her making comments on diversity initiatives and calling a late mayor by the wrong name.

Tennessee Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) is receiving backlash after a video was posted to social media, showing her speaking at a meeting on subjects of diversity, the LGBTQ community and reflecting on the passing of Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman.

Bowling begins her speech by stating she wasn’t chosen as Deputy Speaker of The Tennessee State Senate because of her white privilege since she was “raised on the wrong side of the tracks.”

She then comments on the possibility of a diversity council being created in Tullahoma, “When I heard there was being considered a diversity council, I laughed. This is a joke right, what’s the punchline?” said Bowling.

The senator then stated that she wasn’t aware Tullahoma had elected its first woman of color for office.

“I said who was it? I didn’t consider Rupa a woman of color, I considered her Rupa,” said Bowling.

Tullahoma Alderman Rupa Blackwell, a woman of color, serves as the Mayor’s representative on the Board of Education, the Planning Commission, Board of Zoning and Appeals and the Tourism Council.

Senator Bowling also addressed the passing of Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman. She could be heard in the video referring to Mayor Norman as “Eugene” saying she attended his funeral.

“I was honored to speak at Eugene London’s funeral just a few weeks ago. Eugene- and if you say his name, you’re gonna have a smile on your face, because everybody loved Eugene and he loved everybody,” she said in part.

Mayor Norman passed away after his battle with COVID-19.

Eugene London mounted a write-in campaign for Mayor of Tullahoma, but did not win, according to the Tullahoma News.

Bowling could also be heard making comments surrounding the LGBTQ community, recounting a conversation she had with “a lesbian” who she claims came into her office asking the senator to accept her sexuality, “I said listen, I didn’t walk into a room and say ‘hello I’m Janice Bowling, I’m heterosexual and you’ve got to like it or love it’.”

WVLT News has reached out to Senator Bowling for comment on the video above. As of Thursday evening, WVLT did not receive a response.

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