CTU’s Lewis Caught on Tape Mocking Arne Duncan’s Lisp

Maybe Rahm Emanuel isn't the only bully in Chicago.

Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis didn't hold much back when she gave a speech Oct. 1 before a gathering of the Northwest Teachers for Social Justice in Seattle, Washington.

In fact, some say she crossed the line by mocking U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who speaks with a lisp.

"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.”

Lewis has gained plenty of attention in 2011 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.

But it appears that Lewis played the bully in October, when she mocked Duncan, the former head of  Chicago Public Schools.

She appears to justify her actions by referencing a Chicago Tribune editorial cartoon that paints her in an unflattering light.

“You all should go to the Chicago Tribune editorial cartoons," she says."There is a vicious, nasty cartoon of me with my fat butt sitting on a little tiny chair in the corner with a dunce cap on and they made sure they darkened me up in case people didn’t know…had my locks, you know…My husband wants to beat somebody up.  … And I have to say, ‘baby, let them do it because you can’t go to jail.’  And I’m too fat to go to jail is what I tell him – I can’t fit in the cell, so I have to behave a little bit.  But I’m losin’ weight because I’m preparin’ to go ‘cause they’re sending me to jail, I just know it at some point.  I’m goin’ to jail.  That’s why I’m losin’ weight – so I can fit in that cell and sit on that little toilet – that’s the only reason.”

Later in the speech -- which was supposed to be about social justice in schools -- she talks about her own drug use.

“I am the only black woman in the class of 1974 from Dartmouth College.  Whoo.  People are impressed – let me tell you, I spent those years smoking lots of weed – self-medicating.  Self-medicating – thank you! [cheers]  Sounds like you all did, too. [laughs and cheers]  Oh, I’m sorry – there’s kids here.  I wasn’t supposed to say that, right? [laughs] Too late!”

Chicago Teacher's Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin released a statement Monday in response to the video, saying in part that Lewis' speech was "self-deprecating humor" in "an attempt to lighten the mood during a long and serious discussion about the on-going campaign to blame and vilify teachers for everything wrong with public education."

Lewis spoke with Duncan on Monday and says that she was "hurt and defensive" about attacks on her character.

"This teaches me that I can never let the frustrations get in the way of carrying out my responsibilities as a leader," Lewis said.

But Kyle Olsen of the Education Action group which released the video, criticized Lewis' comments about Duncan.

"I think it was ridiculous. It was unnecessary. And it goes contrary to what we hear in school about no bullying, treating people with respect," Olsen said.

See the entire 35 minute video on the EAG Foundation YouTube Channel.

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