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Teen tweeter vs. Brownback: Social media have power, she says

November 28, 2011 |  2:51 pm

Twitter is everywhere.
For Emma Sullivan, the teenager whose tweet about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback roiled the blogosphere and got the attention of folks in the state capital, the lesson is that social media have power.

Sullivan sparked a furor when she tweeted that Brownback "sucked" -- and the governor's staff then worked to get an apology from her. The 18-year-old refused, even though the demand for such an apology was filtered down through her principal.

On Monday, Brownback apologized for what he called his staff's overreaction in seeking a mea culpa from the high school senior.

"It shows the power of social media,” Sullivan said in a telephone interview.

“I will watch what I say,” she continued. “I mean what I say -- and it is my right to say it -- but I need to watch what I say.”

Sullivan said she was glad that Brownback apologized, but she noted that the governor didn’t apologize directly to her, but only for his staff’s zeal.

Though she had been studying state politics in school and talking with relatives about such topics, Sullivan said, she didn’t send out the tweet to create an issue, much less to rattle the halls of power in the Kansas capital, Topeka.

“I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything,” she said. “I don’t feel like there was a victory. I’m just just glad I didn't get in trouble." School district officials had announced earlier  Monday, before Brownback's apology, that Sullivan did not  have to apologize.

“I know that we don’t agree,” Sullivan said of her political differences with Brownback, a leading Republican conservative. Among the differences, she said, are her support of gay rights, her backing for arts institutions whose funds have shrunk, and her pro-choice position; Brownback is a leader in opposing court action that established abortion rights.

With the incident over, Sullivan’s Twitter followers have skyrocketed to well more than 11,000, compared with Brownback’s almost 3,300. Sullivan said she was going to seek another Twitter handle -- for her friends.


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-- Michael Muskal

Photo illustration: Social media, including Twitter, are everywhere. Credit:  Scott Roberson/Daily Journal