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Oklahoma House reprimands Rep. Sally Kern

The Oklahoma House of Representatives takes the action after Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, apologized on the House floor. She said she is sorry for her comments that were disparaging to blacks and women.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: May 3, 2011
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The House of Representatives on Monday publicly reprimanded Rep. Rep. Sally Kern for disparaging comments she made against blacks and women during a debate last week on affirmative action.

The House took the action about an hour after Kern, R-Oklahoma City, made a tearful apology on the House floor.

Rep. Mike Shelton, one of four blacks in the 101-member House, made the motion to reprimand her. Kern made the motion to unanimously accept it.

“I made my apology, and I do understand that just saying you're sorry does not make everything right,” Kern said.

A member objected, and a roll-call vote was taken. The House voted 76-16 to reprimand Kern. It's the third public reprimand the GOP-controlled House has issued against members — all Republicans — this session. Rep. Mike Reynolds, of Oklahoma City, was scolded for interrupting the pastor of the day, and Rep Randy Terrill, of Moore, was reprimanded for making comments considered threatening to the House speaker.

Shelton said the reprimand was necessary because Oklahoma is working hard to improve its image.

“We are trying to be a player within the United States as well as the world,” he said. “The comments by Sally Kern make us step back and it makes people look at the state of Oklahoma as a different place.

“We must recognize Oklahoma is changing and it's changing fast,” Shelton said. “Our population is becoming more diverse and that we need to learn to be more accepting of others.”

Making an apology

During her apology on the House floor, Kern, who three years ago did not apologize for telling an Oklahoma City Republican group that the homosexual agenda is a bigger threat than terrorism or Islam to America, said she was sorry for her comments during last week's debate.

“I certainly stumbled in my words the other night,” said Kern, who spoke from the lectern and addressed the full House.

She said several people had read her latest comments, including House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. She quoted Scripture a couple times, including a passage that states thoughtless words can wound as deeply as a sword.

“I said some words that were not real thought out and that offended many African-Americans and many women,” Kern said. “That was not my intent. ... I take full responsibility for it and I am truly sorry.”

Kern said Monday she didn't speak with contempt or malice during her eight-minute speech last week. She submitted a written apology Thursday, which was accepted by Steele.

Monday was the first time the House met since Wednesday night's debate.

Kern cried toward the end of her apology, which lasted several minutes.

“My poor choice of words were hurtful and offensive to many,” Kern said. “I am offering my apology and asking for your forgiveness.

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