Make no mistake: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback does suck. And he also blows a lot. Especially if you’re a young woman in the state; especially if you are the product of its public education system; especially if you think corporations don’t always have the public’s interest in mind; especially if you love this place that somewhere along the way decided to love only white, U.S.-born, straight Christians who believe life begins the moment two people start making out.
Sucky and blowy as he is, though, the guy knows a PR mess when he sees one. Today Gov. Brownback sort of apologized for what he calls his staff’s over-reaction to a teen’s tweeted criticisms. In a statement he said, “My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.”
The whole kerfuffle started last week after 18-year-old Emma Sullivan tweeted to her 65 followers: “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” Even though the high school senior, who was at the state’s capitol as a member of Youth in Government field trip, hadn’t actually met the governor, even though telling him he sucked was mostly just a nugget of teen Twitter comedy gold.
But the issue blew up and made national news after Brownback’s director of communication came across the tweet. When the director read the missive, she contacted the Youth in Government program, who passed the info on to the teen’s suburban Kansas City school. Principal Karl P. Kravitz called her into the office, scolded her for an hour and told her to write a letter of apology to Gov. Brownback. Sullivan agreed, but changed her mind over the weekend.
On Sunday, Sullivan tweeted: “I’ve decided not to write the letter but I hope this opens the door for average citizens to voice their opinion & to be heard!”
Backfire! And with that, a 1st Amendment purist/outspoken woman/conscientious voter/next generation human rights activist is born! She even admits that when she sent the tweet, “it’s not like I was really fired up about anything he said.”
But it’s not as if Sullivan, a self-described liberal, was coming from nowhere with her comments. Since taking office about a year ago, Brownback has made it clear he will be using the governor’s office to prove his extreme right conservative chops so that he can run for president again real soon. This spring, he made the fiscally unsound but conservatives-pleasing move of axing the Kansas Arts Commission, leaving his the only state without an arts agency. It is expected to save the state .005 percent of its budget (um, while also costing the state federal matching funds, losing jobs, etc.)
He appointed a lawyer who has represented some of the most extreme anti-abortion groups to a state medical board that oversees abortion doctors. Brownback also signed bills that would have kept two of the states three abortion doctors from providing their services had a judge not blocked the order.
Brownback is also notoriously anti-gay. Not simply anti-gay marriage, but actually anti-gay person. Brownback has had a long association with Lou Engle, an anti-gay minister, who has worked with others to increase anti-gay sentiment in Uganda, where some leaders there hoped to classify being gay as a capital crime. In 2009, Brownback also participated with Engle in PrayerCast, in which a bunch of people group-prayed that federal healthcare reform wouldn’t pass (thanks, guys, for sussing out which side God is on!).
Sullivan’s Tweet heard round the country may not have been the height of good manners. But it was a great lesson for her and the governor in the power of social media (she now has 9,000+ followers. Brownback? 3,000+). And also a reminder that you can’t really apologize for something you’re not sorry for. So while Sullivan stands by what she wrote, the governor is now doing the apologizing. Considering how ridiculous this whole thing makes him look, we think he means it!
Here’s the rest of his apology, according to the Lawrence Journal-World:
“I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future.
“I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum.
“Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.”