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CTU's Lewis Defiant in Duncan Apology

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Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis on Wednesday was defiant about criticism over a Nov. 1 speech in Seattle in which she mocked Education Secretary Arne Duncan's lisp.

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The CTU President makes fun of Arne Duncan's lisp. Video Courtesy of the Education Action Group Foundation.
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Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis, Wednesday, was defiant about criticism over a Nov. 1 speech in Seattle in which she mocked Education Secretary Arne Duncan's lisp.

She apologized for offending Duncan, but that's about it.

The union boss was defiant during her morning press conference, saying the speech in front of a gathering of the Northwest Teachers for Social Justice in Seattle was borne of frustration with the school system.

“Over the past 48 hours much has been made about remarks I made during a presentation at the Rethinking Schools: Northwest Teaching for Justice Conference in Seattle last month," she said. "In addition to talking about the critical issues that impact our schools, 120 seconds of my 35-minute speech included comments about well-known personalities and civic leaders with whom I have disagreed over the years."

During the speech she said of Duncan: "Now, you know he went to private school ‘cause if he had gone to public school he would have had that lisp fixed," she said on stage. "I know – that was ugly wasn’t it?  I’m sorry.”

In Wednesday's mea culpa, the CTU leader appeared to blame others for the fall out.

“As you know, neo-conservative, anti-labor and anti-public education bloggers -- with a history of distorting and misrepresenting the truth -- seized the opportunity to create a pseudo- firestorm around my comments in order to distract from our work at the Chicago Teachers Union. One such blogger created a viral video, edited for dramatic effect, and then distributed his skewed video to the media and others in the blogosphere in an attempt to smear my character. ... With that said, let me be emphatically clear.  Some of what I said was inappropriate and insensitive.  No one should ever resort to personal attacks."

Lewis has has been in the spotlight this year after taking on Rahm Emanuel's plan to extend the Chicago Public School day despite a union contract calling for changes next year.

At one point she said Emanuel tried to bully her.

Her comment about Duncan was intended to criticize city private schools, which he attended. Lewis was trying to make the point that private schools don't have the resources-- or the interest-- in children who have physical or mental difficulties.

Lewis called Duncan to apologize after a video of the speech was made public on Monday, but also defended her comments.

According to a news release from the CTU, Lewis was employing "self-deprecating humor" in "an attempt to lighten the mood

"Lewis has always been candid and outspoken when discussing the personalities and policies that have adversely impacted public education in our nation" the release read.

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