Rep. Kern apologizes, won't be disciplined
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK & RANDY KREHBIEL World staff writers
Friday, April 29, 2011
4/29/11 at 8:12 AM
Watch Rep. Sally Kern’s controversial statements on the House floor Wednesday night.
OKLAHOMA CITY - State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, apparently faces no disciplinary action after issuing an apology Thursday for her controversial statements on the House floor.
The state NAACP had called for Kern's resignation over a 10-minute speech Wednesday night in which she said women and minorities generally earn less than white men because they don't work as hard or have as much initiative.
"You cannot commit racism and then offer an apology for the racist statement that you make," said Anthony R. Douglas, Oklahoma State Conference NAACP president.
"The citizens of Oklahoma, the constituents, can no longer stand by and allow this type of action to happen."
House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said he did not think disciplinary action was warranted. He said he called Kern Thursday morning and "told her I disagreed with her comments. She said that what she had stated came out wrong and she was already in the process of issuing an apology."
Steele said he thought the apology was enough, that she handled it appropriately and that a public reprimand was not necessary.
Kern issued her written apology at about noon on Thursday.
"I want to humbly apologize for my statements last night about African Americans and women," she said. "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."
The controversy arose during debate over Senate Joint Resolution 15, a proposed constitutional amendment intended to outlaw race- and gender-based preferences in state government.
Critics charge the measure is really a political ploy to get a racially charged issue on the November 2012 presidential election ballot.
Hiring quotas, which were mentioned several times during debate in favor of the amendment, are illegal, as are set-asides and contract preferences.
The measure would apply only to state government and specifically excludes any action that might jeopardize federal funding or contradicts federal law.
Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, who carried the bill Wednesday night but is not its author, said preferences do not benefit women and minorities as intended.
But Douglas said Shannon, who is of African and Chickasaw heritage, is himself "a product of affirmative action."
Steele spent most of his weekly briefing with reporters fielding questions about Kern's comments and SJR 15. He said he does not believe Kern's speech has hurt the state's image and that he supports SJR 15.
"Ultimately what we want to occur, when it comes to utilizing taxpayer dollars, those taxpayer dollars are used on merit and what is in the best interest of the public," he said.
According to Oscar Jackson, head of the state's Office of Personnel Management, Oklahoma has not had hiring quotas since the early 1980s.
Its affirmative action program involves identifying departments in which the number of women or ethnic minorities is below that for the general workforce, then recruiting qualified candidates to address the situation.
It is unclear how the proposed amendment would affect such a procedure.
"No one can be hired who does not meet the qualifications for that particular job," Jackson said.
Senate Democratic leader Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City challenged Republicans to reprimand Kern, saying a failure to do so "can only be seen as tacit agreement with Sally Kern."
The Black Legislative Caucus also condemned Kern, and Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, started an online petition to "tell Sally that she does not speak for you!"
Kern made national headlines in 2008 when she said that "the homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation" and poses a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism or Islam.
That same year, she was turned back by Capitol security when it was determined she forgot to take her gun out of her purse. Weapons are not allowed in the Capitol, with some exceptions.
Original Print Headline: Rep. Kern apologizes, won't be disciplined
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465 Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Sally Kern: The Oklahoma City lawmaker said she "misspoke" when she said minorities and women don't work as hard as white men.