One minute, Emma Sullivan was just another Kansas high school senior. The next, she had the wrath of state government come down on her after she tweeted mean things about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R).
The 18-year-old Sullivan was at a Youth in Government program in Topeka where Brownback was speaking to young people interested in politics and government when she decided to exercise her 1st Amendment right and tweet a thought. During Brownback’s speech, Sullivan tweeted to her 60 or so followers (though now she has more than 6,000): “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”
Actually, Sullivan did not tell Brownback that he “sucked” or that he “blows a lot” in person, but the fact that she said it to other people over social media resonated with the chief executive of Kansas, who is also a former Senator and House Member.
Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag saw the tweet and forwarded it to the Youth in Government Program’s organizers to tattle on Sullivan. Youth in Government lived up to their name when they called Sullivan’s principal at Shawnee Mission East High School and then the principal called the high-schooler into the office, demanding an apology.
“We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies,” Jones-Sontag told the Wichita Eagle. “We just felt it was appropriate for the organizers to be aware … because of what was said in the tweet.”
Sullivan has refused to apologize, and her sister, Olivia Sullivan, told ABC News, “Emma decided that it wouldn’t be sincere for her to apologize, and she didn’t want to give any more power to the governor.”
Update: Brownback has issued an apology to Sullivan. "My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that, I apologize," Brownback said in a statement. "Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.