Education Secretary Arne Duncan has accepted an apology from the president of the Chicago Teachers Union for a joke she made about him having a lisp.
At a union event in Seattle last month, Karen Lewis said she could tell Duncan "went to a private school, because if he had gone to a public school, he would have had that lisp fixed." Her comments were caught on video.
Lewis said Monday she was wrong to make the joke and called Duncan to explain.
Education department spokesman Justin Hamilton said today that Duncan accepted her apology.
A clip of Lewis' remarks was widely circulated online Monday by a nonprofit education group. In the half-hour video, Lewis says of Duncan, “Now, you know he went to a private school because if he had gone to a public school he would have had that lisp fixed.”
Afterward, Lewis seemed to back off the statement, saying, “I know, that was ugly, wasn't it? I'm sorry.”
As the video made the rounds on local television Monday, Lewis called Duncan to apologize, saying she can “never let frustrations get in the way of carrying out my responsibilities as a leader.”
Duncan, the former chief of Chicago Public Schools, has clashed with union leaders in Chicago and elsewhere for his public support of non-union charter schools, turning around failing schools by removing all teachers and staff, and other education initiatives.
Later in the video, Lewis joked about her own time in college, saying she “self medicated” with marijuana. She also lambasted a Tribune editorial cartoon from earlier this year that depicted Lewis in the corner of a classroom wearing a dunce cap.
Lewis called the cartoon, which darkened her skin and exaggerated some of her features, as “vicious” and “nasty.”
Chicago Public Schools officials declined to comment on the Lewis video. But union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said Lewis was simply trying to use humor to “lighten the mood” at the education rally.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun