When a Facebook post went public criticizing Michelle Obama, it quickly generated outrage. The exchange between two public officials was extremely racist, and many people did not feel comfortable having someone who supported those views in office. It has therefore resulted in one person being fired and another person resigning.
The offensive Facebook post was written by Pamela Taylor who was a director at the Clay County Development Corporation. Clay County Development Corporation is a government funded non profit organization that works to provide assistance to impoverished people in a West Virginia county. Clay county is also home to the city that is also named Clay. The city’s mayor, Beverly Whaling, was also involved in the scandal.
The issue started on Monday when Taylor wrote on Facebook, “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.” Mayor Whaling commented approvingly on the post, saying “Just made my day Pam!” Someone who was friends with both officials saw the racist post and decided to share it online.
It rapidly resulted in outrage among people nationwide since Michelle Obama is a beloved public figure who has one of the highest First Lady approval ratings ever. The suggestion that the Harvard educated First Lady is lessy classy than a former model most known for her racy photoshoots probably would have been enough to draw ire from online communities. Calling a black woman an “ape in heels” was enough to push the comment from just generally offensive to blatantly racist.
Whaling attempted to defend herself in a public statement saying “Those who know me know that I’m not of any way racist! Again, I would like to apologize for this getting out of hand!” Despite the obviously racist message in the post, Whaling just claimed that she was expressing disapproval of Obama’s policies. Unfortunately, this just served to further annoy people. A petition calling for Whaling to be fired received over 175,000 signatures in just two days.
Taylor, the person who actually wrote the post, was placed on unpaid leave almost immediately. She issued a public apology but tried to sidestep accusations of racism by saying that her post was merely calling Michelle Obama ugly. However, there is a long and hurtful history of calling black people apes to insult their intelligence and appearance, sp it is difficult to believe that Taylor was not aware of this. In an interview, Taylor said that she plans to file lawsuits against the people who threatened her and slandered her in the aftermath of her racist post.
At first, the residents of Clay city hoped that the scandal would blow over, but they realized that keeping Whaling as mayor would make it seem like they were supporting her racist views. A city council member said, “the county is sorry that this has been placed upon everyone instead of just the few who made hurtful remarks.” Whaling resigned from her position on Tuesday night, and the city is now looking to replace their former mayor.
Council member Jason Hubbard apologized to First Lady Obama on the behalf of the Clay county government. He stated, “please don’t judge the entire community for one or two individual acts.” Tina Goode, the town’s clerk, also added, “It wasn’t right, what was posted. We’re not like that… We’re not a racist town.”