Brownback gives, not gets, an apology

There was a curious story out of Kansas last week, about Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) office wildly overreacting to a random tweet from a teenager. Today, it looks like the story was wrapped up to everyone’s satisfaction.

Let’s quickly recap for those just joining us. Emma Sullivan, a high school senior and a Democrat, visited the state capitol last week as part of a program for students interested in politics and government. After seeing the governor, Sullivan told her 60 Twitter followers, “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”

It turns out, she hadn’t actually made any mean comments to Brownback; Sullivan was just joking around with her friends on her personal Twitter account. But the governor’s staff monitors social media, and Brownback aides were so offended by the teenager’s message that the governor’s office contacted event organizers about it. The student was soon told by her principal that she would have to write a series of letters of apology, including one to Brownback.

As of yesterday, Sullivan had decided to stand her ground. She told reporters that she has rejected her principal’s demand for a written apology, which Sullivan said would be insincere since she isn’t actually sorry.

Today, Brownback weighed in with a statement, and to his credit, the right-wing governor is the one giving, not getting, an apology.

Brownback submitted a statement Monday afternoon to Yahoo! News apologizing to the teen. “My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms,” he said.

Was that so hard?

Look, it stands to reason that in 2011, a governor’s office is going to monitor the media, and take an interest in social media. But when gubernatorial aides have been reduced to complaining about random tweets from teenagers, it’s time for them to reevaluate their priorities. I’m glad Brownback had the good sense to take the high ground and not to be so thin-skinned.