Shawnee Mission East teen Emma Sullivan insulted Kansas Governor Sam Brownback over Twitter while on a school field trip to the state capitol last week.
“Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot,” she wrote to her 60 followerswho tuned in to her sporadic updates about the Twilight films and Justin Bieber. In fact, Sullivan hadn’t said a word to the governor during his brief speech, and she now says the Twitter comment was just an “inside joke” among her high school friends who were also on the Youth in Government field trip and disagreed with Brownback’s politics.
But the humor was lost on members of Brownback’s staff, who found the tweet while scouring social media sites for his name and alerted Sullivan’s high school principal. The principal reprimanded Sullivan and demanded she write an apology to the governor.
Sullivan agreed to write the apology letter “to get it out of the way,” she says. “I didn’t want to deal with it because I’m in the process of applying to school and am trying to keep my reputation good.”
But she soon thought the better of it, after calling her older sister, Olivia, who is a political science major at Wichita State University and is now managing her flood of interview requests. “I wasn’t sorry for what I said because I meant it,” Sullivan says. She disagrees with Brownback, a Republican, on rights for gay couples and abortion rights, among other things.
And while Sullivan’s tweet is still rude, Brownback’s staff response makes him look thin-skinned and unable to take a joke. “I can’t believe they would prioritize that over other issues they have going on now,” Sullivan says. “I can’t believe they take time out of their day to look at social media and Twitter for his name.”
Gov. Brownback’s statement apologizing to Sullivan is below:
“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms. 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”