Marilyn Davenport, the Southern California GOP official who sent an email depicting President Obama and his parents as chimpanzees, has finally issued an apology. But despite calls for her resignation by Republican County Chair Scott Baugh, former state Chair Michael J. Schroeder and a chorus of civil rights activists, Davenport defiantly vowed to remain in office.
"To my fellow Americans and to everyone else who has seen this email I forwarded and was offended by my action, I humbly apologize and ask for your forgiveness of my unwise behavior," she wrote. "I say unwise because at the time I received and forwarded the email, I didn't stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive," Davenport's apology read.
Last weekend, Davenport sent out a photo of a chimpanzee family with President Obama's head superimposed on the baby chimp and the phrase: "Now you know — why no birth certificate." The email set off an uproar and calls for her resignation, but Davenport defiantly refused, denying that there was a racial implication in the photo. She said that "the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race."
Baugh told The Root Monday that Davenport cannot be removed from office for her comments. Baugh said that "our hands are tied by the state's elections codes." He said, "there are only three grounds for removal [from the committee], but being a racist is not one of them."
Despite Davenport's apology, Baugh and Schroeder say that she should step down. "The damage to the Republican Party has been by her, and I still think she should resign," Schroeder said.
Davenport initially insisted that she had done nothing wrong, characterizing her action as "a harmless joke" and deriding criticisms as "much to do [sic] about nothing." In 2009, Davenport defended Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose, whose doctored email of a watermelon patch on the White House lawn angered Democrats, independents and many Republicans. He later resigned.
Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP's California State Conference, denounced Davenport in an email: "There are no ifs and buts about this cartoon; it is absolutely and positively racist in nature. There is no way that depicting the President of the United States as less than human can be considered anything but a racist act."
For national NAACP officers who believe that much of the Tea Party's leadership and members are racists, response to Davenport's email has been an international confirmation. However, Micah Grant, an African-American communications strategist for the state Republican Party, said that he believes "people are sophisticated enough to know that this was an isolated incident and by no means represents the California Republican Party."
But John Burton, chair of the California Democratic Party, told The Root that "this just reinforces what we know about a lot of Orange County Republicans: They're a bunch of wackos." When told that Republicans say they're not racists but are merely misunderstood, Burton replied, "Yes, and Republicans also say the earth is flat."
Frank Barbaro, the Democratic Party's Orange County chair, said that he believes Davenport's Republican colleagues on the county committee "could vote to remove her. I think Scott has to do that and the committee has to do that; they can do something."
F. Finley McRae, a freelance journalist, is based in Los Angeles.