Kern has come under fire in the past after making controversial comments about the gay community, and the latest comments came this week during legislative debate about a bill that will send a constitutional amendment eliminating state affirmative action programs to voters.
She claimed much of what she said had been misconstrued and her words had not come out the way she intended, particularly comments about women that many found offensive.
During debate on the bill, which passed the House, Kern said in response to one lawmaker citing a statistic of the number of black people in prison: “Is this just because they’re black that they’re in prison, or could it be because they didn’t want to work hard in school? And white people often times don’t want to work hard in school or Asians often times, but a lot of time that’s what happens. I taught school for 20 years, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard. They wanted it given to them. Matter of fact, I had one student that said, ‘I don’t need to study. You know why? The government’s going to take care of me.’”
Later during the debate, Kern said of women: “I’m not saying women don’t work hard. … Women like … to have a moderate work life with plenty of time for spouse and children and other things like that. … They work very hard, but sometimes they aren’t willing to commit their whole life to their job like a lot of men do.”
Kern was blasted by the local chapter of the NAACP, as well as Democratic lawmakers, for the comments. She later issued an apology for the remarks.
Prior to making today’s comments at the High Noon Club, a group of conservative citizens that meet every Friday at H&H Gun Range in Oklahoma City, Kern asked that the door to the meeting room be shut, and that people obstruct the door’s windows, as there were television cameras outside.
“They’re saying I said this, and I did not say this. I would never say this,” Kern said today. “I did not say that minorities earn less than white people or women earn less than men because they don’t work as hard or have less initiative. I did not make that statement.”
Kern said she cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during her debate, in that the nation should strive to ensure all people should be treated equally, and it should be the content of one’s character that leads to success, rather than race.
“I said I agree with that. That’s our goal and we should work for it,” Kern said. “I also said I believe like Martin Luther King when he said he wanted a nation where there was justice and freedom for all that that meant equal opportunity, not equal results.”
She said “reverse discrimination” is an “elephant in the room” that had not been previously addressed. The audience responded with applause.
Kern said when the words “women don’t work as hard as men” left her mouth, she knew she had messed up.
“Immediately, I knew I said the wrong thing,” she said. “It came out the wrong way.”
Kern, who described herself as a “working woman,” said everyone should have the opportunity to advance, regardless of color or gender. She ended her remarks by thanking the audience, which gave her a standing ovation, for their encouragement.
“We ought to be colorblind. We ought to be willing to give everybody a chance to become everything they desire to be. I am not a racist; I am not a bigot,” Kern said, fighting back tears. “The media take one little slice of something and blow it way out of context. Now, did I use a poor choice of words in the middle part (of the debate) because I realized, ‘Uh-oh, I’m getting myself in trouble,’ and maybe I should have sat down then.
“But I was not disparaging any group of people. We’re all created equal. I know that, I believe it, I try to live it. I apologized this time because my words were misconstrued, and I didn’t speak clearly and I would never want to offend people like … anybody. Just because they’re born a certain way — anyway, I’m getting myself in trouble again. Anyway, I appreciate your encouragement.”
Read a commentary from Sen. Andrew Rice: “Is Sally Kern an aberration?“