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‘Where’s the Punchline?’

State lawmaker’s “joke” about higher education backfires.



The Tennessee lawmaker who targeted a Memphis pro-choice advocate on his talk show faced backlash last week after suggesting higher education should be axed because it's a "liberal breeding ground."

Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) said on his weekly radio talk show, "The Kerry Roberts Show," earlier this month that getting rid of higher education would "save America." Last week, he recanted the statement, saying it was all a joke and hyperbole.

Roberts' comments came as he was detailing the events of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing last month on legislation that would essentially ban abortion outright in Tennessee. During his show, the lawmaker made targeted comments about Cherisse Scott, founder and CEO of SisterReach, a Memphis organization meant to help women and girls of color, women living in low-income and rural areas, and the LGBTQ community obtain reproductive justice.

Roberts on the set of his talk show. - THE KERRY ROBERTS SHOW/YOUTUBE
  • The Kerry Roberts Show/Youtube
  • Roberts on the set of his talk show.

Scott, a pro-choice advocate, testified at the Senate's hearing last month, opposing the proposed legislation. But Scott was cut off by the chairman of the committee, Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), halfway into her allotted 10 minutes.

Roberts called Scott's testimony a "diatribe on social justice. I don't even know what to call it. It was ridiculous."

"You know what the sad thing about it is?" Roberts continued. "There are people who are sitting here applauding her and cheering her on."

Roberts then attributed Scott's and others' stances on the matter to higher education.

"If there's one thing we can do to save America today, it is to get rid of our institutions of higher education right now and cut the liberal breeding ground off," Roberts said. "Good grief. The stupid stuff our kids are being taught is absolutely ridiculous. This is a woman who's a product of higher education, and she's learned all of this stuff that flies in the face of what we stand for as a country."

The "price that we pay" for higher education, Roberts added, is the "murder of over half a million innocent lives every year, with people sitting there justifying it to their last breath."

According to his Senate biography, Roberts is a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville.

In a response posted to Facebook, Scott reveals that she "is a college dropout who left school to help a sick parent."

"Deal with it and the thousands of other educated black women who are degree-less and yet making moves on behalf of ourselves and our communities," Scott wrote.

Shortly after Roberts' comments were brought to light, the lawmaker posted to Facebook saying that his comments were made in a joking manner. "My listeners clearly understood the humor and hyperbole of it," he wrote. "That was a week ago. But today, it's a news story."

Others disagreed that he was joking and took it to Twitter.

"I'm not buying that it was joke/hyperbole," one Twitter user, @RN_Atheist, said. "Listen to what he says and how he says it. Then tell me where's the punchline?"

Roberts has since made the videos of his radio show, previously published to Facebook, unavailable to the public.


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