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Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, under fire for saying U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has a lisp during an event in Seattle last month, said Wednesday that she will not resign from her post despite the controversy that has followed her since video of the speech went viral.
"Some of what I said was inappropriate and insensitive. No one should ever resort to personal attacks," Lewis said during the press conference, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Still, she said that she "will not step down from my office. I am a fighter and we are in this for the long haul."
Lewis added that "neo-conservative, anti-labor and anti-public education bloggers -- with a history of distorting and misrepresenting the truth" -- were responsible for filming, promotion and distributing the video, NBC Chicago reports. She added that her comments were only some two minutes of a 35-minute speech touching on a range of issues before an audience of educators assembled for the Northwest Teaching for Social Justice conference.
(Watch the original video below.)
"[They] seized the opportunity to create a pseudo firestorm around my comments in order to distract from our work at the Chicago Teachers Union," Lewis continued. "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."
The Oct. 1 video, posted online late last week by the conservative Education Action Group, shows Lewis saying, "Now, you know [Duncan] went to private school 'cause if he had gone to public school he would have had that lisp fixed."
The CTU president, who is also the vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (and at one time a stand-up comic), went on to mention using drugs during college.
"I am the only black woman in the class of 1974 from Dartmouth College," she said. "... People are impressed ... I spent those years smoking lots of weed, self-medicating. ... Oh, I'm sorry, there are kids here. I wasn't supposed to say that, right? Too late!"
Lewis apologized to Duncan for the remark, calling it "ugly," an apology which the former Chicago Public Schools head accepted. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Lewis "is a good soul" and that she "did the right thing by apologizing to Secretary Duncan. Karen regrets what she said and I regret it."
Bill Bigelow, an organizer of the Seattle event where Lewis made the remarks, also came to her defense in a statement released Wednesday and posted on the CTU website.
Bigelow said that he was "dismayed that certain individuals and groups are seeking to undermine the important work of Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and to misrepresent what transpired at our conference. ... Evidently, some commentators think that they can use some off-hand remarks to distract people from Lewis's important work of building a union focused on education and justice."
Lewis has frequently been in the spotlight in recent months. She has challenged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to extend Chicago's school day by 90 minutes, called Emanuel "clearly anti-teacher" and accused the mayor of swearing at her during a private meeting.
WATCH the original video featuring Lewis's controversial comments: