Archive for Friday, June 20, 2014

Kansas House speaker’s ‘red shirts’ comment sparks backlash

June 20, 2014


— Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick's comment about people wearing red shirts in the Statehouse is stirring a backlash from Democratic leaders and teachers representatives who said Friday that they're not buying his explanation.

“His comments are unacceptable and his spokesperson’s attempt to downplay them is pathetic,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka.

“I think my reaction would be, 'Poppycock,'” echoed Mark Desetti, lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

Merrick made the comment Thursday in response to a reporter's question about allowing people with concealed-carry permits to bring weapons into the Statehouse.

When asked by a Wichita Eagle reporter whether that might make other visitors to the Capitol uncomfortable, Merrick replied: “I'm uncomfortable with people being here for other reasons. There are a lot of red shirts around here.”

In April, during the final days of the 2014 session, scores of teachers converged on the Statehouse, with many wearing red T-shirts, hoping to block passage of a bill stripping them of tenure rights. That provision was part of a larger school finance and education policy bill that was strongly supported by Republican leaders and that narrowly passed both chambers.

But hours after the Journal-World posted a story about his comment online, Merrick's spokeswoman called the newspaper to say his “red shirts” remark was not a reference to teachers but to British soldiers, known as "Redcoats," during the Revolutionary War.

“It's a term of art, a saying,” said spokeswoman Rachel Whitten. “I think it can be boiled down to the fact that we should have our ability to protect ourselves.”

“That's just patently absurd,” Desetti said. “With everything that's been going on since April, or even since last year, if anybody thinks he made a mistake, I don't know what they're on. They're crazy.”

Both Desetti and Hensley recalled that when the bill passed the House on April 6, with the bare minimum 63 yes votes needed for passage, Merrick appeared to be gloating over the victory.

“Speaker Merrick walked through a group of teachers in ‘red shirts’ holding up his phone playing the Marines Hymn as if it was some sort of tactical victory to be celebrated,” Hensley said. “He has little respect for teachers and I find it hard to believe that he simply ‘misspoke.’”

But Whitten said that incident was also being taken out of context.

“It was his ringtone; it goes off all the time,” Whitten said in an email statement. “This is an unfortunate misunderstanding that has been made into a political game.”


4 years ago

I think my reaction is....wait for it...Poppycock as well! lol! Etymology: From Dutch "pappekak"...from pap (soft) + kak (excrement)...I like the synonym "balderdash" for it as well...but I will let you "wiki" that one...

Brock Masters 4 years ago

Even if he really meant the British, one has to ask what planet is he from as I've not seen any British in the Capitol nor are we at war with England.

Dan Eyler 4 years ago

He was referring to the NEA. NEA certainly scares me more and threaten my liberty and the liberty of my grandchildren far more than any citizen with a concealed permit/gun entering the state capital. Any attempt to suggest negative comments about the NEA is a slam on teachers is poppycock. NEA is the primary reason schools struggle and children suffer. NEA uses our children as though they represent them. NEA doesn't represent our children never have and never will. Most have no beef with teachers, but teachers need to understand that the union that claims to represent them is the only voice we hear for all teachers. Based on outcomes in our schools there is no evidence that demonstrates that our schools are improving their outcomes. We should point out that schools in the past year performed so poorly the scores for schools were not even reported.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years ago

"We should point out that schools in the past year performed so poorly the scores for schools were not even reported." Is this going to be the anti public school AFP, Chamber, and ALEC lie this year? The weren't reported, because computer glitches. If you would try and volunteer in schools, or if you have even ever stepped into a school as a parent, grandparent or volunteer, you would know that the new test system had glitches that made the results invalid. But lets not get involved in schools or visit them. Let's just stand back and criticize something about which you know nothing.

Kevin Elliott 4 years ago

How dare speaker merick disrespect his position and the people of kansas and lie to us so blatently. Clearly a dishonorable man unwilling to be responsible for his own actions. A child in an adult role.

On a personal not, though i would not call myself a trekkie, i always thought of redshirts as the crew that usually died on away missions.

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