Last week, the speaker of the Oklahoma state House of Representatives refused to reprimand radical state Rep. Sally Kern (R) for saying in a floor speech that “blacks” and women are lazy. “I taught school for 20 years, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard,” Kern said, eliciting demands from the NAACP for her resignation. But Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele (R) said he was satisfied with the written apology Kern later issued, saying Kern “handled it appropriately and that a public reprimand was not necessary.”
Still, civil rights leaders and Democratic lawmakers kept up the pressure and yesterday, state Rep. Mike Shelton (D) — one of four African-American members of the 101-member House — successfully brought a motion to reprimand, following another apology from Kern read from the House floor:
Shelton said the reprimand was necessary because Oklahoma is working hard to improve its image.
“We are trying to be a player within the United States as well as the world,” he said. “The comments by Sally Kern make us step back and it makes people look at the state of Oklahoma as a different place.” [...]
“I made my apology, and I do understand that just saying you’re sorry does not make everything right,” Kern said.
But not everyone in Kern’s party was as accepting of the punishment as she was. Sixteen lawmakers voted against the reprimand, with state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R) saying the censure “flies in the face of every Sunday school lesson I’ve ever had.” “Kern issued a sincere apology. My faith teaches me that I’m to forgive,” he said. State Rep. Randy Grau (R), who also voted against the move, explained, “If we reprimand for what somebody says in debate we could have a very detrimental, chilling effect on free speech.”
Kern was not reprimanded nor apologized for saying three years ago that homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism.