US Republican Senator Ben Sasse's recent commencement speech for a Nebraska high school has been slammed as "despicable".
Sasse, in an eight-minute speech released to graduates over the past weekend, made comments on students' fitness and psychologists and also tried to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic, reports Xinhua news agency.
"If you don't get that joke, talk to your mom and dad," Sasse said.
"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."
Before encouraging students not to major in psychology, the senator said that "95 per cent of all gainfully employed psychologists ... their job is really just to help people forget high school".
In response, Fremont School Board Member Michael Petersen urged Sasse to apologize.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Petersen told students they "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," Petersen said.
"You owe the graduating students of Fremont High an apology."
Sasse graduated from Fremont High School in 1990 and was president of Midland University in Fremont before running for the US Senate.
Sasse is running for a second term for his Senate seat and will be challenged by Democrat Chris Janicek this year.
"It's hard for me to believe that a US Senator would make remarks like he did in that speech," said Janicek.
"Ridiculing mental health care specialists, suggesting that the graduates are lazy slackers and using the platform to blame China for the pandemic we have now is beyond reprehensible."
In a letter to Sasse, the Nebraska Counseling Association called his speech "tasteless and demeaning to our field and more importantly, our seniors".