April 18, 2011 -- An email sent by an Orange County, Calif., Republican that features the face of President Obama superimposed on a chimpanzee has sparked a nationwide controversy, with numerous groups condemning its contents.
Marilyn Davenport, an elected member of the Orange County Republican party, apologized for the leaked email, but said she sees no reason to step down from her post. The email depicts Obama as a chimpanzee with two older chimpanzee "parents." Superimposed on the digitally altered image? "Now you know why – No birth certificate!" According to its bylaws, the committee cannot remove Davenport, but it can censure her.
The cartoon, leaked to an Orange County newspaper, has led some, including other officials within the Orange County Republican Party, to call for Davenport's ouster. The California state chapter of the NAACP issued a statement, calling Davenport's email "racist, outrageous, and disrespectful."
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and Eddie Jones, president of the Los Angeles Civil Rights association, issued a joint statement prior to a news conference today. The statement said Baugh's "refusal to take action to expel Davenport from the GOP's top policy-making body is a blatant endorsement of racism by a GOP top official."
Davenport, an elected member of the party's central committee, apologized in an email Saturday afternoon for offending anyone, writing, "I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth." But she added, "We all know a double standard applies regarding this president. I received plenty of emails about George Bush that I didn't particularly like, yet there was no 'cry' in the media about them."
Scott Baugh, the chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, said he is advocating for her resignation and is encouraging others to persuade her to step down.
"I don't think she understands the gravity of the event of what was perpetuated," he said.
Baugh said he thinks that "with enough pressure," she would think about resigning.
In a Los Angeles Times article, Tim Whitacre, another Orange County committee member, called Davenport a "polite and gentle grandmother."
In a Saturday email, Davenport expressed frustration that someone forwarded her email to a reporter, writing, "Anyone want to come forward?"
This is not the first time an elected official from California has landed in hot water with a doctored image in an email. In February 2009, shortly after Obama's inauguration, Dean Grose, the mayor of Los Alamitos, Calif., sent an email with the headline "No Easter Egg Hunt This Year" with an image of watermelons spread across the White House lawn. Grose eventually resigned.