Kern controversy: comments draw minority leader’s condemnation

 During state House debate Wednesday night over a proposal to amend Oklahoma’s constitution to forbid racial or gender preference in public policy, state Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City made comments that have garnered critical scrutiny and condemnation.

Arguing in support of Senate Joint Resolution 15, Rep. Kern said, “We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I taught school for 20 years, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard. They wanted it given to them.”

During lunch hour Thursday, Rep. Kern apologized for her comments.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Kern said:

“I want to humbly apologize for my statements last night about African Americans and women. I believe that our government should not provide preference based on race or gender. I misspoke while trying to convey this point last night during debate. Women are some of the hardest workers in the world. My husband is a pastor of a diverse inner-city church and the way that my words came out last night is certainly not my true spirit.”

Just before 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Democratic Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City, minority leader in the upper chamber, said in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, “On behalf of every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, I strongly condemn the reprehensible racist and sexist comments made by Rep. Sally Kern yesterday on the floor of the House of Representatives. Such immoral beliefs have no place in a civilized society. I am shocked that a member of the legislature would show such disrespect and mean-spiritedness by expressing such antiquated and bigoted views.

“Surely the Republican leaders of the Legislature and Gov. Fallin will join my caucus in stating publicly that such bigotry and ignorance has no place in our political system. Representative Kern has shown a pattern of expressing demagoguery, and I know of no instance where a fellow Republican has ever condemned her.”