The Mt. Juliet restaurant owner who was harshly criticized on social media because his event room was rented by Senate candidate Rep. Marsha Blackburn last Saturday has garnered national attention and spokespersons for her opponent, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, said that the Democrat’s campaign had no part in the backlash.
Courtney’s Restaurant and Catering owner Tom Courtney said the Blackburn rental was a business transaction and not a political stance. Social media posters said they would not visit his restaurant anymore because he rented the space to Blackburn, and Courtney said threats were made against him and his staff, although he said he did not file a police report.
“This has been unbelievable,” Courtney said. “But, as a small business owner I would rent the space to the Bredesen campaign in a heartbeat. I’ve been interviewed now nationally and locally about what happened.”
The Bredesen campaign said while they want supporters, the kind of comments Courtney has received is not the way to show it.
“Any protest was not connected to the Bredesen for Senate campaign or the Tennessee Democratic Party in any way.” Tennessee Democratic Party spokesperson Mark Brown told The Wilson Post. “In fact, the Bredesen campaign will probably take Tom Courtney up on his offer of renting the same space.
“Unfortunately, politics out of DC has become far too polarized and hyper-partisan. Governor Bredesen is running against the very notion that all Tennesseans of different political beliefs can do is stand across the room from each other and shout. If it’s logistically possible, he would be glad to hold an event at Courtney's Restaurant and Catering.”
Courtney said Bredesen is welcome to rent the event room, but he still feels the sting of the backlash and said he will vote for Blackburn.
“I can’t be threatened, or my staff threatened because of an event here,” he said Thursday. “It’s unfortunate. I don’t think Phil Bredesen had anything to do with all that. But, let’s be honest, his campaign needs to hold his people in check. This behavior ruins their party.”
Brown said he thinks the onslaught against Courtney and Blackburn on local social media was an anomaly.
“Governor Bredesen wants that to stop,” he said. “He wants to work across party lines. He doesn’t want polarization. That’s not the way to do things. We realize this was a business transaction. We know Tom is open to everyone.”
Brown said the backlash was “not organized.”
Bredesen spokesperson Laura Zapata told The Wilson Post that Bredesen hosted an event on Aug. 21 in Mt. Juliet to discuss the opioid epidemic and that Courtney’s catered that event.