Rep. Sally Kern will not be punished by the House of Representatives for remarks she made away from the state Capitol in which she called homosexuality the biggest threat to America, House Speaker Chris Benge said Tuesday. Benge, R-Tulsa, said he has no plans to censure Kern, R-Oklahoma City, for telling a Republican gathering earlier this year that homosexuals are "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.” Three organizations have called on Benge to censure Kern or have her apologize for the comments. One possibility would be for a House committee to investigate to determine if punishment was merited. "We're not putting a committee together, no,” Benge said. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, meanwhile, is looking into alleged death threats made through e-mail messages and telephone calls sent to Kern. The unusually large volume of e-mails sent to Kern and other House members nearly clogged the chamber's e-mail system and server that representatives use to track bills, a spokeswoman said. The flood of e-mails is the result of an audio clip of Kern's comments being posted on the Internet site YouTube. The House Internet system did not crash, largely because technical staff made the YouTube site inaccessible on the House servers, said Jennifer Mock, Benge's spokeswoman. The YouTube site was chosen because most representatives were trying to listen to Kern's comments and because its streaming audio and video require a lot of computer space, she said. The site still was unavailable Tuesday. Three OSBI agents are looking into the possibility that some of the e-mails and telephone calls made to Kern are threatening, agency spokeswoman Jessica Brown said. Several criminal analysts are going through thousands of e-mails "that are growing by the moment,” Brown said. "Many of them are ‘I hope you die,'” Brown said. "That's not a threat to bodily harm. What is a threat to bodily harm is ‘I'm going to kill you.'” Kern said Tuesday night the correspondence has been a strain. "I'm not going to live my life in fear,” she said. "The bottom line is I know in my heart I know what I said and it's being taken out of context.” Her comments totaled less than three minutes on the YouTube site. Kern said she spoke for at least 30 minutes, mostly on how backers are funding candidates who support gay rights.Comments
Comments prompt flood of e-mailsKern said her office has received more than 11,000 e-mails and countless telephone calls. She received more than 7,000 Monday. In addition, more than 2,000 e-mails were sent Monday to her personal account, she said. Most are from out of state and are negative in nature, she said. Mock said the 101 representatives received more than twice the normal number of e-mails Monday, the first work day after Kern's comments were posted on YouTube. Normally, the House system handles about 26,000 e-mails a day when representatives are in session, Mock said. About 56,000 e-mails were logged Monday. Benge said Kern "has a right to express her opinion.” Asked whether her comments represent the House Republican caucus, Benge said, "Each member has their own opinion, there's no way that I can say whether that reflects the rest of the Republican caucus or not. "Each individual member has thoughts about that, and I'm not sure what those would be,” he said. Democratic House leader Danny Morgan said members in his caucus are waiting to see what the House Republican leadership does. If no public scolding occurs, "I would hope that a discussion would be held with the member,” said Morgan, of Prague.