Officials under fire for First Lady ‘Ape’ comments

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia mayor resigned her post Tuesday following a backlash after she posted a response to a racist comment about first lady Michelle Obama on Facebook.

The Clay Town Council accepted Mayor Beverly Whaling’s resignation in a meeting late Tuesday afternoon and said it would act quickly to name a replacement for the remaining three years of her term.

Council member Jason Hubbard issued a brief statement condemning the “horrific” post and said “racial intolerance isn’t what this community is about.” He apologized on behalf of the town to anyone who is offended, including Michelle Obama.

Clay County Development Corp. director Pamela Ramsey Taylor made the post following Republican Donald Trump’s election as president, saying: “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.”

Whaling responded: “Just made my day Pam.”

Taylor told WCHS-TV on Monday night that she was put on leave.

Meanwhile, Whaling issued a written apology to news media outlets saying that her comment wasn’t intended to be racist.

“I was referring to my day being made for change in the White House! I am truly sorry for any hard feeling this may have caused! Those who know me know that I’m not in any way racist!”

Taylor did not return a call seeking comment.

The post, first reported by WSAZ-TV, has caused a backlash and prompted calls for Taylor and Mayor Whaling to be fired. The post was shared hundreds of times on social media before it was deleted. The Facebook pages of Taylor and Whaling couldn’t be found Monday.

The nonprofit Clay County Development Corp. provides services to elderly and low-income residents in Clay County. It is funded through state and federal grants and local fees. It is not affiliated with the town of Clay, which is about 50 miles east of Charleston.

Owens Brown, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s West Virginia chapter, is among those calling for the removal of both women.

“I feel it’s so unfortunate that people still have these racist undertones,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, this is a reality that we are dealing with in America today. There’s no place for these types of attitudes in our state.”

African-Americans make up about 4 percent of West Virginia’s 1.8 million residents, according to the U.S. Census.

About 77 percent of Clay County residents supported Trump in the Nov. 8 election. In 2012, President Barack Obama received 31 percent of the county vote when Republican Mitt Romney easily carried the state.

Last week in Kentucky, Republican Dan Johnson defeated incumbent Democrat Linda Belcher in Bullitt County in a race for the state House of Representatives, despite a series of posts he put on Facebook depicting President Barack Obama and his wife as monkeys. Republican officials, including likely new House Speaker Jeff Hoover, had called on Johnson to drop out of the race. But Hoover declared last week that Johnson would be “welcome in our caucus.”