Lawmakers: Sen. Ford goes to hospital one day after angry rant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - State Sen. Ophelia Ford was taken to a hospital by ambulance one day after delivering an angry, rambling tirade in a committee meeting, say Democratic lawmakers who were familiar with the incident.

Two Democratic lawmakers, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the news, said Ford was taken to the hospital Tuesday, spent the night and was released Wednesday.

One lawmaker said Ford, D-Memphis, was weak "because she hasn't been eating properly." The legislator did not have any information on what was wrong with Ford specifically or what treatment she received.

"They debated whether or not to put her in intensive care last night," the lawmaker said. "That's how bad it was."

Ford, 56, said in March that she had a severe case of anemia that has caused her to miss much of the legislative session.

Someone who is anemic has a low number of red blood cells; symptoms are fatigue and shortness of breath.

There are many types and potential causes of anemia, but Ford hasn't given any further details. Ford was absent from the Senate session Wednesday.

When contacted by cell phone, Ford would not say whether she had been treated in a hospital or where she was.

"Why don't you find that out on your own," she said.

One day before going to the hospital, Ford shocked lawmakers and observers with an off-topic tirade that lasted nearly two minutes in a committee meeting that was focused on the state Department of Children's Services.

The hearing was about a performance audit that showed the Division of Child Protective Services did not complete some investigations of child deaths within the 60 days as set out in state policy.

But Ford pressed DCS officials about death certificates and other matters that seemed irrelevant to the hearing, even though they repeatedly told her the agency has nothing to do with death certificates.

"What you're talking about ain't hitting on nothing with me as a certified funeral service practitioner. What you're saying ain't hitting on nothing! And you guys need to get better and you need to get more educated," Ford said angrily. "And so what you're saying to me is absolutely dumb! Excuse my expression, but it is. It doesn't even make sense to me with all the children we're burying. And we've got one of the largest funeral homes in Tennessee, probably in the country. "So what you're talking about ain't hitting on nothing with Senator Ford! Get yourselves better educated!"

Subcommittee chairman, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, said Ford's remarks were "absolutely unexpected."

Watson said Ford may have been unsure exactly what was being discussed because she arrived at the meeting late.

"My assumption would be that Sen. Ford either didn't have the time, or did not review that material, and therefore wasn't fully aware of what kind of process we were talking about," Watson said. But on Wednesday, Ford disputed that she was confused. "I understood exactly what I was talking about," she said.

Other lawmakers have expressed concerns about Ford's health. Sen. Beverly Marrero, another Memphis Democrat, said she's noticed that Ford has lost a lot of weight.

"She's tiny, obviously she's not eating right," said Marrero, D-Memphis. "She's had major health problems with anemia and different things. We just want her to get better."

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said he also hopes her health improves. "I'm concerned for her," the Blountville Republican said. "We'll just keep her in our thoughts and prayers and hope everything works out."

Elected to the Senate in 2005, Ford replaced her brother, John Ford, who resigned after 30 years in the Legislature following his indictment on federal corruption charges.

Republicans in the Senate later nullified the election results because of voting irregularities and ousted Ophelia Ford, but voters returned her to the Senate in November.

Stay tuned to Action News 5 at 10 and for updates on this developing story.