Chicago Teachers Leader Apologizes for Mocking Education Secretary Duncan

Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011 04:14 PM

By Andra Varin

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Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has apologized to Education Secretary Arne Duncan for mocking his “lisp.”

Duncan has accepted the apology, his spokesman says, although the union contends that the video, which includes Lewis joking about her own marijuana use in college while speaking to a student audience, was edited selectively and presented out of context.

The video clip was first posted on the website Chicagonow.com by education blogger Alexander Russo and a longer version is available on YouTube, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Story continues below video.




In the video, Lewis, who also is vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, makes fun of Duncan’s qualifications to run the Education Department and imitates his manner of speech.

“You know he went to private school, because if he’d have gone to public school, he’d have had that lisp fixed. I know, that was ugly, wasn’t it? I’m sorry,” she said in addressing a teachers conference in Seattle.

Talking about her own time as a student at Dartmouth College, Lewis said, “Let me tell you, I spend those years smoking lots of weed, self-medicating, self-medicating.”

The Chicago Teachers Union issued a statement saying Lewis, a former stand-up comic, was merely using humor in a speech. It blasted the “edited clip” as the work of “right-wing, anti-public education advocates.”

“Karen Lewis has always been candid and outspoken when discussing the personalities and policies that have adversely impacted public education in our nation,” the union statement said. “The observations she made about herself and other public figures were an attempt at humor and candor before a live audience.”

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