Teachers Union: Lewis’ Mocking Of Duncan Was ‘Attempt At Humor’

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis is apologizing for a mocking remark she made about U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, Lewis says her remarks were just an attempt to lighten the mood when she took a shot at Duncan at a conference with teachers union leaders in Seattle last month.

The video of Lewis’ speech was posted on YouTube by the Education Action Group, which has given it the title, “CTU President Karen Lewis Uncensored – NSFW,” although it does not have any obscene language or subjects that would appear to deem it “not safe for work.”

As of Tuesday morning, the clip had 2,764 views.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Lewis is shown pacing back and forth in the four-minute clip, which was taken from a speech that lasted more than half an hour.

“This guy has the nerve to stand up say, ‘Education is the civil rights issue of our time,’” Lewis said, adopting a low, lisping monotone voice to mock Duncan as she quoted him. “But you know he went to private school, because if he had gone to public school, he’d have had that lisp fixed.”

Lewis also called Duncan unqualified, noting that he only holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Harvard, where Lewis claimed “it’s hard to get in, but it’s not hard to stay.” She suggested that Duncan probably had not taken any math or science classes at Harvard, since they are not required.

“If the president had appointed the custodian who works in a hospital Surgeon General, what would the physicians have done?” she said. “I think they’d be beyond that. They’d have risen up and said, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ ”

She went on to say, “He was an athlete, so he might not have been self-medicating, but I wouldn’t count on it.”

Duncan was the co-captain of the varsity basketball team at Harvard, and later played professional basketball in Australia.

Lewis went on to address other subjects in her speech, including a Chicago Tribune editorial cartoon, which she characterized as “a vicious, nasty cartoon of me, with my fat butt sitting on a little tiny chair in the corner with a dunce cap on.”

Later, she remarked that while attending Dartmouth College, she “spent those years smoking lots of weed; self-medicating.”

The union said Lewis spoke with Duncan on Monday afternoon about her remarks.

“Karen Lewis has always been candid and outspoken when discussing the personalities and policies that have adversely impacted public education in our nation,” union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a statement. “The observations she made about herself and other public figures were an attempt at humor and candor before a live audience.”

The video was picked up by conservative Web publisher Andrew Breitbart’s “Big Government” site, which characterized the clip as “laced with potty talk” and “cheap personal attacks” on Duncan.

In its statement the Teachers Union complained that the video was being used as a tool by “right-wing, anti-public education advocates.”

“Though these comments were made more than a month ago, today they are being presented out of context in order to shift the focus from bad public policy decisions in education to attacks on her character,” said Gadlin said in the statement.

The Education Action Group, which originally posted the video on YouTube, does say on its own Web site that it does not support teachers’ unions.

“Breaking the power of Big Labor in America’s schools would allow parents, administrators and teachers to be free to make decisions in the best interest of students,” the Web site says. “Onerous labor contracts and work rules, designed to defend adults’ rights, hinder innovation and improvement.”

Duncan led the Chicago Public Schools system before he was appointed Education Secretary following the election of President Obama. In both Chicago and Washington, Duncan has clashed with teachers’ unions over the expansion of non-union charter schools and other issues.

  • CFLC

    She’s an embarrassment to the Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago. Please step down!

    • Sean

      What an embarrassment. And this woman was a teacher! What was her subject, lunch?

      • JByrd42

        Breakfast, lunch and dinner. She is an absolute disgrace. I have two close friends who are public school teachers and they are just disgusted by some of their fellow teachers and their union. I send my son to a private school and the teachers there are wonderful and they actually teach reading, writing and arithmetic. What a novel concept.

    • Chris

      Do you have any idea how hard it is to embarrass the Chicago Public School system?

      • Kelly

        Excellent point.

      • Tomas Cruz

        If he was indoctrinated in the Chicago reeducation system. He would be flipping burgers.

    • Blah

      How anyone can embarrass Chicago governing bodies, NGO’s or any institution loosely connected to that city is beyond me.

    • Larry Davis

      Lewis is a disgrace to any school system. Duncan is gay and a water carrier for the gay agenda against our children..

      • Ralph Malph

        Actually, Arne Duncan is married to the love of his life and has two children. This “gay agenda” you speak of is nothing more than a Tea Party fever dream. You people are worthless.

      • gdh

        ralph malph blows hobos for quarters

    • Jerry Kauffman

      darn straight he would have got that lisp beat out of him in chicago public

  • Jim Watkins

    Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis in her professional role, knows of the severe bullying of children with disabilities. As Mr Duncan has had a distinguished career, to try and bully Mr Duncan because he has a lisp is not acceptable.

    From the Chicago teachers Karen Lewis represents, from parents, to the Chicago Public Schools – This Should Not Be Acceptable Behavior.

    We at Ability Chicago are calling for Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis to resign, or if necessary be removed. Is this the example for our children to be have before them.


    • Teacher

      Karen is saying that Arne’s( lisp) and Maria Bartomoa’ s ( sloshy lateral lisp) would have been referred for speech therapy. Unfortunately that does not always happen in private schools.

      • Jim Watkins

        That is not what Karen Lewis ‘said’ she made a attempt to imitate Mr Duncan talking, there is no damage control for this. No excuses….

      • bry

        the neighbor’s kid goes to public school – he has a lisp – none of the kids at our private school have them and I’ve been to enough plays/presio’s/productions to know each of the kids’ speech patterns.

        At the high level – it shows a character flaw in this person – I have many gay friends, that is not the thread…most republicans I know are very open to gay folks…but this type of talk shows a more liberal tendancy to be intolerant or at least an equal amount.

      • lisper

        Maybe they could have “fixed” his gayness problem too?

      • kbernatovich

        They may have fixed his lisp but he very well not have been able to read after graduation.

  • Stepdown!

    And she calls herself educated?!

  • obesity

    Too bad, cause some of the best comedians are obesely overweight. This lady is definitely a beast.

  • Fire the Karen Lewis and ...

    There are a lot more teachers out there behaving like her right in the classroom. My _______ is a CPS teacher. She has been known to hold personal conversations on her speaker phone for the students to listen in on. A lot of this stuff is personal. She is also a pot head besides the fact that she has had sexual relationships with her students in the past. Looking from the inside out.

  • Yard Ape

    Now look at ole’ ba-baby go !!!!

    She’s a worthless sack of sh !t as are a majority of her minions in the CPS

  • Looks are deceiving...she came out of the closet

    Yuch!! Guacala!!! UGLY!!! STUPID!! BULLY!! FIRE HER!!!

  • PG

    I know that the teachers of the CPS just have to be oh so proud that she represents them. Talk about a low class move on her part, and to get up on a stage in a public speaking capacity dressed like she is and looking like she does (completely out of shape), just takes the cake. No way to sugar coat that…..because she’d probably eat that too!

    • JByrd42

      You could sure hear a lot of them laughing it up. I’m sure they are no better than she is. I know I’m going to called a racist for this but, she sounded a bit uneducated and ghetto. Is that how they talk to their students?

  • Kelly

    Clearly a woman with deep personal issues. I hope she is getting the mental health services she so obviously needs. There is no chance at all public education in Chicago will progress at all as long as she remains in her position. Noone should have any doubt why Chicago Public Schools are failing are children after this. Time for new leadership within CPS.

    • Sad

      I agree. Her severe obesity is possibly related to her mental health condition. Her criticism of Mr. Duncan’s qualifications are unwarranted also. As an example, many excellent sports coaches never played the game or at least not ot an elite level.

  • ra

    all she has to do is look in the mirror for humor and horror

  • Feed Me Seymour... Karen

    Shops at Lane Bryant, nuff said.

  • Feed me!

    I’m surprised that stage can hold all that weight.

  • Flubber Is As Flubber Does

    Is that the CPS Yetti??.

  • Karen Is The Yeti

    Yeti, sorry, I should of stayed in school, I quit because I was scared by the Yeti.

  • Larry Horse's Arse Horse's Arse

    Arnie Duncan is a clown. But this beast is an even bigger clown.

    Get off stage. And stay off of TV screens. She makes me cringe.

    CPS is a joke. And these people abuse the system while giving their kids no chance.


  • Laurie Driscoll

    Instead of the Teachers Union spokeperson making the statement about Karen Lewis’ attempt at “humor” (any of it was funny?) they should be denouncing what she said and calling for her resignation.

  • flyboy7588

    Most likely nothing will happen to this dolt. After all she has that protective skin pigmentation.

    • Ralph Malph

      HERP DERP.

  • David

    Mocking someone for a speech impediment of maybe poor pronunciation?


    Now I ” AXE ” you, is that tolerant?

  • http://www.fastnews.tv/?p=112462 CHICAGOLAND: Teachers union prez makes fun of Secy of Ed. Arne Duncan's lisp... | Breaking News

    […] (First column, 3rd story, link) Related stories: ‘If he had gone to public school, he would have had that lisp fixed’… […]

  • Ben Doverhereitcomes

    Fire her although the comment was kind of funny. Then get rid of the teacher’s union.

  • Xavier

    Ah, putting the “goon” back in Goonion.

    Really, it’s what I expect.


    isn’t this poster beast for Michelle Obamas anti obesity campaign SUPPORTING THE BULLYING OF DISABLED CHILDREN by this hateful slur ?

  • carl

    another union thug slips up and reveals her true nature: mean, spiteful, greedy, and hateful


    Why do 40 % of Chicago Teachers send their KIDS TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS

    Imagine if a white person ,, and horrors a white male ,, said a certain black unionista woman would not BE AN OBESE BEAST IF SHE WENT TO PRIVATE SCHOOL

  • http://heloise8.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/cps-president-talks-arne-duncan-lisp-from-drudge/ CPS President talks Arne Duncan lisp from Drudge « The Trough

    […] ‘If he had gone to public school, he would have had that lisp fixed’… […]

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