September 26, 2018

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MLA Fletcher roasted after tweet reveals 'inappropriate' boyhood crush on junior high teacher

Assiniboia MLA Steven Fletcher is being criticized for a tweet in which he described his former Winnipeg language arts instructor as "the hottest teacher."

On Thursday, the former federal cabinet minister replied to a tweet from his junior high teacher, Lori Phillips, who had congratulated him on an article that he had written for the Economist magazine.

"Thank you. It's nice to hear from you," Fletcher responded.

"You were always my favourite teacher. Given 35 years have passed if I may tell you that you were also the hottest teacher. All the boys loved you in inappropriate ways. :)"

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Assiniboia MLA Steven Fletcher is being criticized for a tweet in which he described his former Winnipeg language arts instructor as "the hottest teacher."

Fletcher said it is common for students to have crushes on their teachers "because it is a very human thing." (Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press files)</p>

Fletcher said it is common for students to have crushes on their teachers "because it is a very human thing." (Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press files)

On Thursday, the former federal cabinet minister replied to a tweet from his junior high teacher, Lori Phillips, who had congratulated him on an article that he had written for the Economist magazine.

"Thank you. It's nice to hear from you," Fletcher responded.

"You were always my favourite teacher. Given 35 years have passed if I may tell you that you were also the hottest teacher. All the boys loved you in inappropriate ways. :)"

By Friday, the tweet had become widely circulated, drawing stunned and angry responses, including some from Fletcher's former Progressive Conservative caucus colleagues.

Fletcher was booted out of the the PC caucus last year for publicly challenging some of the government's policies and now sits as an independent.

"Most definitely I should learn how Twitter works, as I would not want more people than the people mentioned to have seen the tweet." -Steven Fletcher

Rochelle Squires, minister responsible for the status of women, tweeted: "I don't even know what to say... so, so, insulting, demeaning, inappropriate..."

PC MLA Sara Guillemard (Fort Richmond) tweeted: "This is one way to get attention. Not very wise, though. #nofilter #apologize"

Interviewed Friday, Fletcher, who joined Twitter in November 2008 and has more than 6,000 followers, suggested he wasn't aware that a reply to a tweet could be seen by all who follow him.

"Most definitely I should learn how Twitter works, as I would not want more people than the people mentioned to have seen the tweet," he told the Free Press.

Twitter reaction

See Independent MLA Steven Fletcher's tweet to his former teacher, and some of the responses to it on Twitter.

"My intent was to thank a former teacher for helping me to be able to write the kind of articles I wrote for the Economist and to thank them in a fun way in the context of 35 years ago. And obviously... it would have been much better for it to have stayed within the people who understood the context and the spirit in which the tweet, or the reply to their tweet, was made."

Fletcher said it is common for students to have crushes on their teachers "because it is a very human thing." Asked about the appropriateness of making those feelings public, he replied: "Then I guess I'm honest in public."

Asked if he felt he owed his former teacher an apology, Fletcher said: "I am in contact with that individual and have made the appropriate gestures and so long as that individual is fine with it, I'm fine with it."

However, when the Free Press contacted Phillips in Vancouver Friday morning, she had obviously not seen the tweet and was caught off guard.

"Oh dear," she said as a reporter read it to her.

Asked for her comment, Phillips said, "I'll just ignore it because I don't need to comment on that."

"I'll just ignore it because I don't need to comment on that." -Former teacher Lori Phillips

Delaney Coelho, co-chair of the Manitoba chapter of Equal Voice, an organization dedicated to electing more women to all levels of office, called Fletcher's tweet "completely unacceptable," especially from an elected official who should serve as a role model.

"Words matter and language matters, and especially when you’re an elected politician and you have a platform that accesses a lot of people," she said.

Unfortunately, women face these types of comments in every sector, Coelho said.

"Women have to deal with these kinds of comments on the job every day by their colleagues or bosses or supervisors. It’s not acceptable in any environment."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Read full biography

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