Rewarding Bad Behaviour: Kansas Teen Gains 10,000 Followers for Bashing the Governor on Twitter

Teenager Emma Sullivan pokes fun at Kansas Governor on Twitter and HE ends up apologizing... wait—what?


A teenager from Kansas is making headlines this week for stirring up controversy on the microblogging service Twitter.

Emma Sullivan authored a tweet addressed to Sam Brownback, the Governor of Kansas, after he visited Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village.  The school was practising a mock legislative assembly as a part of Kansas’ Youth in Government program.

During the assembly, Sullivan, freshly a senior, tweeted this:

Not exactly an intelligent or political statement, I would say, since Sullivan isn’t saying anything of substance— other than the fact that she’s a teenager with a smartphone.

But because Twitter is a public forum, and since the governer has people monitoring his online presence, the comment reached his office in no time. Soon after the tweet was released, the governor’s people contacted the principal of Shawnee Mission East.

Sullivan told reporters that her principal “laid into her,” demanding that she apologize for her mean-spirited words. Sullivan had planned to write an apology, but then tweeted on Sunday night that she won’t be saying sorry:

To make matters worse, Sullivan’s Twitter following is exploding: After the story broke on the internet, the teenager’s twitter followers grew from 60 to over 3,500, the Kansas City Star reported. Today, when I checked, that number had grown to more than 11,000. Apparently controversy is still a bestseller.

From the looks of Sullivan’s tweet stream, it seems she’s recieving a lot of support from Twitter, but it isn’t known whether her supporters are free speech activists or those who endorse her view  that the Govermer “blows.”

Thanks to the internet attention,  Sullivan now feels justified in her comment. She is still refusing to apologize, and her most  recent tweet evokes Ghandi, suggesting the teenager is positiong herself as a kind of martyer for free speech:

But what, exactly, is Sullivan fighting for? The right to attack political leaders on social media?

Yesterday afternoon, The Washington Post updated the story, reporting a surprising turn of events: According to The Post, Governor Brownback not only finds it acceptable that Sullivan wrote what she did, he’s also apologized to HER (Sullivan).

Brownback posted this on this Facebook page: 

“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms. I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future. I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum. Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.”

The update from The Post also suggests that Sullivan wrote the tweet in response to the Governer’s decisions to revoke funding to the arts, though nothing in the teen’s tweet timeline expresses her interest in the arts, though there are an abundance of tweets readily avalible on Justin Bieber and Twilight.

@Amanda Cosco is a freelance writer, content queen & social media girl genius. To learn more about her, visit her professional blog here.