INDIANAPOLIS – Senate President Pro Tem David Long on Thursday defended a recent comment he made regarding Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz’s leadership experience.
"Now, in all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, OK?" the Fort Wayne Republican said Jan. 23 on "PrimeTime 39," a program on PBS station WFWA-TV.
That statement was panned in a Lafayette Journal & Courier column as "dismissive snark aimed at the superintendent’s credentials." That column has been floating around on social media as GOP legislators move on bills that would take authority away from Ritz, a Democrat.
Long was ready for the question during a Thursday media availability – handing out the column and a full transcript of his comments.
"I think she is a very bright person and very capable person and I like her. But I was pointing out that as far as leadership, it is a very unusual situation not to have someone who was either a principal or superintendent of schools not be your superintendent of public instruction," he said. "I think that’s been a bit of the problem with the dysfunction going on there. Because there’s a learning curve for her."
Long said he sent a letter to Ritz on Wednesday about the column and what he said.
"I also said to the extent that anyone would suggest that I don’t respect you personally or your record as an educator that is absolutely not true. I do. And to that extent I’m sorry if my words were misconstrued," he said in the letter to Ritz.
He said repeatedly that the bills to eliminate her as the automatic chairman of the State Board of Education are not personal and he did not criticize her as being unable to do the job.
Long called out the columnist, Dave Bangert, by name and said he intentionally misrepresented his comments.
"We live in a world where there’s a lot of gotcha out there," Long said, contending Bangert does not like Republicans.
"That’s OK. That’s his right. But it doesn’t give him the right to misstate comments and twist them into an angle that he is trying to promote."
Bangert responded to The Journal Gazette by thanking Long for sharing his column at the Statehouse.
"I tried to put his comments into context, along with a link to the full interview," Bangert said. "I guess I’ll let readers decide whether it was twisted or taken out of context."