Tenn. CEO Sends Racist Email Comparing Michelle Obama to Tarzan’s Chimp
March 7, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Our First Lady, Michelle Obama is a beautiful and Harvard educated woman of color, who has done our country proud with her grace, style and passion for her unique opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. But Walt Baker, the CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association believes she resembles a chimpanzee, and he found the idea so hilarious he had to share his racism with his pals. He forwarded a “joke” racist email to 12 prominent Nashville citizens (all white males) comparing Michelle Obama to Tarzan’s chimp Cheeta, with the introductory message, “Quoting Larry the Cable Guy … I don’t care who you are, this is funny.” Hahahah, hilarious, right? Comparing African Americans to apes has long been part of our dehumanizing institutional racism, which suggests that people of color are less than human. And when the good ole Tennessee boy Walt Baker was first asked about the email, he dismissed any racial implications associated with its message, saying “it was in good fun.”
Baker’s Southern hospitality apparently only extends to white folks. He forwarded the offensive email on Thursday afternoon to a dozen public figures, referred to by Baker, as “a select group of friends,” including mayoral legislative aide Toby Compton and Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau president Butch Spyridon.
The email contained the following text, with an image of Michelle Obama next to a photo of a chimpanzee:
“I was at the store yesterday, and I ran into Tarzan! I asked him how it was going and if he was into anymore movies.?? He told me that he could no longer make any more movies as he had severe arthritis in both shoulders and could no longer swing from vine to tree. ??I asked how Jane was doing, he told me she was in bad shape, in a nursing home, has Alzheimer’s and no longer recognizes anyone, how sad. I asked about Boy, and he told me that Boy had gone to the big city, got hooked up with bad women, drugs, alcohol, and the only time he heard from him was if he was in trouble or needed something.? I asked about Cheeta, he beamed and said she was doing good, had married a Lawyer and now lived in the White House!!!”
Word of Baker’s crude racist email reached Metro Councilman Walter Hunt, when people started to phone him about the depiction of our African American First lady as a chimp. “It was demeaning, insulting, racist — not only to her, but to every citizen in the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee,” said Hunt.
Throughout Friday, Baker dug in to his original sentiment that it was just a joke folks. Lighten up everyone! When contacted by the blog Pith of Nashville Scene Baker chastised reporters for trying to create a “political” issue:
Baker said he meant no offense and sent the crude email to “a select group of friends.” “If anybody wants to make a political agenda out of it, they’re wasting they’re time,” said Baker.
Baker then continued, saying that he apparently chose the Nashville dozen, recipients, because he believed they would appreciate the racist humor:
“It’s not a political statement,” Baker added. “It was done in the spirit of having some fun with some close friends. It was something that was forwarded to me, and I forwarded it to a couple of people that, quite honestly, I thought might find some humor in it like I did.”
At least one recipient didn’t share Baker’s vile racism and alerted the media. Toby Compton, said “I don’t think it’s funny — period.” And The NCVB’s Spyridon called the email “unacceptable and not representative of our organization and what we stand for.” Spyridon said he telephoned Baker and “chewed him out.” As the fallout over the crude email continued and made it to the local news channel, Spyridon released a statement condemning Baker’s email, as “appalling and unacceptable” and terminated the NCVB’s “contract with Mr. Baker’s marketing agency, Mercatus Communications.”
Appearing on News 2, Baker finally appeared contrite over his actions:
“It was wrong, my initial reaction to the story was wrong,” Baker told News 2. “It was stupid and I am alone, the responsible party in this.” “I regret my actions and I’m going to regret my actions probably forever,” he added.
Late Friday, Baker emailed an apology to the original 12 recipients containing one word: “Sorry.” Baker then sent a more carefully crafted statement of apology to the Nashville Metro Council characterizing the email as political humor:
“Thursday night I spontaneously forwarded — to a small group of people — an email that had been sent to me as political humor. As I forwarded it, I did not think or consider its implications, other than that it was political humor. I am saddened that anyone misinterpreted the sentiments behind the email. I deeply apologize to anyone who is offended by this action. I hope that those who know me realize that the message was not intended to be malicious or hurtful in any way and can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
This is not the first time Tennessee has had problems showing blatant racism attacking our first black President Barack Obama and his family. Last June, Sherri Goforth a staffer for Tennessee State Senator Diane Black sent out a racist email, during work, which depicted President Obama, as a pair of “spook eyes.” When confronted with her racism, Goforth was only sorry that she sent the racist missive to the the “wrong list.”
And let’s not forget Former Tennessee, Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman, who sent out the “Barack the Magic Negro” song as a “gift” to Republican National Committee members. Saltsman’s racist ditty attacking the president of the United States is a favorite of hate talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Watch the News 2 coverage of Baker’s chimp email:
h/t Crooks and Liars