Posted at 02:41 PM ET, 11/28/2011

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback apologizes to teen after she refuses to apologize to him

Correction: A savvy Kansas reader points out that Gov. Brownback spoke at the state capitol, not at Sullivan’s high school.

It’s a social media skirmish that’s left one Kansas governor apologizing for overreach. Last week, Gov. Sam Brownback spoke to a “Youth in Government” group in Topeka, Kansas. In the back row, student Emma Sullivan expressed her distaste for the man she blamed for revoking arts funding in schools and throughout the state.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (John Hanna/AP)

To her 60 followers on Twitter, Sullivan sent out the message: “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

She later told the Kansas City Star it had been a joke, not meant to go beyond her classmates. The only problem: Brownback’s staff tracks comments on Twitter about the governor. When they saw the remark, they reported it to Sullivan’s school. Her principal asked her to apologize.

The teen first agreed to, but on Sunday she decided she would not.

I've decided not to write the letter but I hope this opens the door for average citizens to voice their opinion & to be heard! #goingstrongMon Nov 28 01:33:05 via web

The story quickly spread nationally, with thousands of Twitter messages deriding Brownback’s actions.

A week after the initial fracas, those Twitter messages seem to have gotten through to the governor. He’s apologized to Sullivan in a statement posted on his Facebook account:

“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.

I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future.

I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum.

Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.”

More than a hundred people have left comments, the majority of them still negative.

As for Sullivan, she’s now got over 10,000 new followers. All that’s left for her in the social media sphere is for her to sell a script: “How to Win Followers and Influence Governers a.k.a. The True Tale of a Teen Tweeter.”

By  |  02:41 PM ET, 11/28/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company