GOP senator Ben Sasse drew sharp criticism from a high school board member over comments he made during a commencement address over the weekend.
The senator delivered the online speech to students at his former high school, Fremont High School in Nebraska, where he blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak, joked about students’ fitness and shared his dislike for psychologists.
An unshaven Sasse, wearing a loosened red tie and white shirt, told students at their future reunions they’d talk about “that time when China started a big global pandemic that created the worst public health crisis in over a century and brought the economy to its knees, and we had to stay home and everybody was hoarding toilet paper.”
Sasse continued, “Nobody knows exactly how we’re going to beat this thing, but you know what, we’re Americans, we’re Nebraskans, we’ve got grit and we’re going to beat this thing.”
The senator also said there will be a “serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control by lying about it.”
He also told the students, “Everybody named Jeremy is the worst,” without any explanation.
He also cited Netflix “Tiger King” documentary, murder hornets, and took a jab at the student’s physique, “Back in the day when we were a lot fitter than you people are, we used to have to climb ropes all the way up to the ceiling of the gym all the time.”
The senator took aim at psychologists as well, saying “95 percent of all gainfully employed psychologists … their job is really just to help people forget high school,” adding, “if you’re headed to college, do not — do not — major in psychology. That part’s not a joke.”
A Fremont school board member, Michael Petersen, called on Sasse to apologize on Facebook, “You deserved better than the graduation remarks from Senator Ben Sasse. The racism, implying that our graduates are fat and lazy, disparaging teachers and attacking the mental health profession are despicable.”
Sasse’s spokesman, James Wegmann, told the Omaha World-Herald on Sunday the senator was joking during the graduation speech and that “It’s ridiculous that some politically addicted folks are complaining about Ben calling out China in a joke.”
Wegmann then continued, “He’s said this for months, because it’s true: The Chinese Communist Party’s coronavirus coverup wasted time that could have contained the spread — those lies cost innocent lives in China and around the world. Pretending graduates are too fragile to hear the truth is silly.”