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Governor Keating's story about a mystery CEO allegedly criticizing Oklahoma college graduates is more fiction than fact, according to a state lawmaker who first questioned the authenticity of the Governor's story last month.
Senator Kevin Easley said that a letter written by a state college president indicates that the CEO story is false and the Governor knows it.
"Governor Keating's story is more tall tale than truth. I can't understand why the Governor would go out of his way to invent a story that unjustly criticizes state colleges and the graduates they produce. It hurts our economic development efforts and destroys his credibility," said Senator Easley.
In two separate interviews on KRMG Radio in Tulsa last month, the Governor recounted an alleged conversation with a person he identified only as a "CEO of a Fortune 500 company." According to Governor Keating, the CEO told him that eight out of 10 Oklahoma college graduates could not pass the employment test required to work for his company.
When Senator Easley pressed the Governor to identify the CEO, he declined but insisted his story was true.
However, a letter recently written by the president of Southwestern Oklahoma State University indicates Governor Keating did not speak to a CEO about the issue in question. In actuality, the comment about Oklahoma college graduates was made by a junior employee of a company called Imation during the Governor's tour of its Weatherford plant. According to SWOSU President Joe Anne Hibler, the remark was directed at graduates of her university, not all state colleges, and was inaccurate "There was no CEO, just a junior employee who made an off-the-cuff remark that turned out to be wrong. Governor Keating took an inaccurate statement, attributed it to someone who wasn't there and proceeded to use it to unjustly defame all Oklahoma college graduates," noted Senator Easley.
"That's not just irresponsible. It's inexcusable."
According to the letter by President Hibler, the company employee who made the remark has acknowledged it was inaccurate and an official with the Imation plant has since written Gov. Keating in an effort to set the story straight. Despite that letter, the Governor has made no attempt to retract his public comments criticizing the quality of Oklahoma graduates.
"Governor Keating hasn't made any effort to correct his story, even though he knows it isn't accurate. He's ignored the facts and created the false perception that Oklahoma college graduates are incompetent. There's no legitimate explanation for that kind of behavior, especially for someone who claims he's the state's top cheerleader for economic development," said Senator Easley.
The latest episode not only undermines Governor Keating's credibility, but hurts Oklahoma's economic development efforts as well. Because an educated workforce is one of the most valued commodities in today's competition for new jobs, the Governor's misstatements are very damaging, according to Senator Easley.
"Slandering our workforce amounts to economic sabotage. If someone outside the state trashed Oklahoma like that, we wouldn't stand for it. Why should we let our Governor do the same thing?" asked Senator Easley.
"How are we going to attract new jobs when our Governor keeps perpetuating the myth that our college graduates can't make the grade? It's a horrible economic development message to send, especially when it's not true."
This isn't the first time Governor Keating has attributed negative statements about Oklahoma's labor force to unidentified business leaders.
Last year, the Governor came under fire claiming that most of the prospective employees in southeastern Oklahoma were either on drugs or illiterate.
"I really don't know what to do about a Governor who resorts to making up stories that denigrate our state and its people. Sewing Governor Keating's mouth shut may be the single most important economic development action we could take," said Senator Easley.