Expelled Tennessee lawmaker Justin Pearson’s transformation goes viral

Gun Rights

A Democrat expelled last week from the Tennessee House of Representatives cultivated a very different persona while running to be his college’s student body president in 2016, newly unearthed video has shown.

Former state Rep. Justin Pearson is seen smiling in a suit and tie and speaking in measured tones about his campaign to lead student government at Bowdoin College in Maine, saying he wanted to represent students of all political persuasions.

“I’m Justin J. Pearson, and I’m running for president of [Bowdoin Student Government],” he says in a video circulated by conservative Twitter accounts that has since racked up millions of views. “I wanted to do this by partnering with organizations from the Bowdoin Democrats to the Bowdoin Republicans.”

“I want to bring together different voices — dissenting voices, voices that may be more liberal or more conservative — in order that we can reach a point of, sort of, the radical middle,” Pearson adds while striding across the lawns of the elite school’s campus.

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The video then cuts to Pearson adopting the tone of a Southern preacher in April 2023 before a vote was held to expel him and two other Democratic lawmakers for storming the House floor and halting deliberations while leading a gun control protest inside the Capitol building.

Justin Pearson
“I want to bring together different voices,” Pearson said when running for Bowdoin Student Government.
Justin J. Pearson/Facebook

Tennessee state Rep. Justin Pearson
Pearson adopted the tone of a Southern preacher when denouncing a vote to expel him last week.

“Seem like the NRA and gun lobbyists might win,” said the lawmaker from Memphis, who sometimes wore a West African dashiki on the House floor.

“I don’t know how long this Saturday in the state of Tennessee might last, but oh we have good news, folks. We’ve got good news that Sunday always comes.”

“All glory and honor to God, who makes all things possible,” Pearson also said.

The GOP-controlled House then voted 69-26 to oust the 28-year-old Pearson and 72-25 to expel state Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville), who was reinstated by Nashville’s Metro Council on Monday.

Pearson is expected to be similarly reinstated later Wednesday by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

A third state Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), survived being expelled by a single vote.

State Rep. Justin Pearson (right) and fellow state Rep. Justin Jones.
The GOP-controlled House ousted Pearson (right) and state Rep. Justin Jones (left), though Jones was reinstated Monday.

Justin Pearson
State Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) adopted a different tone and style as a college student when running for office.

State Rep. Justin Pearson
Pearson could often be found wearing a West African dashiki while conducting state House business.

The Democrats’ expulsion came after the so-called “Tennessee three” broke House rules by leading protesters in chants that interrupted proceedings and forced the chamber into recess.

Hundreds of protesters descended on the state House last week to call for tougher gun restrictions in the wake of the March 27 shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville that killed three adults and three children.

Politicians have often been caught substituting different accents and dialects for their own when seeking voters’ support, including failed 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

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