American Morning

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June 19th, 2009
06:05 AM ET

Avlon: Racist emails, Playboy's GOP list

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Email sent by TN state legislative aide (L) and article (R)."]

If you debase or dehumanize people who disagree with you politically, you’re deep into wingnut territory. That’s what we see in this installment of "Winguts of the Week," which looks at racist emails sent by southern Republican politicos and an ugly Playboy web-feature on “Conservative women we hate to love.” Get ready for a generous helping of racism and sexism from the right and the left.

I love the South, but southern conservatives have a notoriously complicated history where race and politics intersect. Little learning curve was shown in South Carolina this week when longtime local GOP activist Rusty DePass "joked" that First Lady Michelle Obama was descended from a gorilla, which had gone missing from a local zoo: "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors – probably harmless." Watch

The comment, posted on the former state election director and Richmond County GOP chair’s Facebook page, drew widespread outrage. (Note to the over-60 crowd: the world of social networking isn’t conducive to racist asides that might have gone unchallenged in a country club or pool hall.)

DePass’s initial public defense was to claim that Michelle herself had said she was descended from apes. This apparent Scopes-Monkey Trial-era reference to evolution was not consistent with anything found in the first lady’s remarks. Silence about the scandal from the South Carolina Republican leadership was deafening but Mr. DePass eventually wrote a letter of apology to the first lady, presented in front of the local NAACP. Seems like evolution of attitudes might be a good thing all around.

But Rusty DePass wasn’t the only southern Republican politico to wade into the murky waters of racist emails masquerading as humor. This week, Tennessee state legislative aide Sherri Goforth found herself in the national news when she emailed an image labeled “Historical Keepsake” – showing the august portraits of presidents of the United States from George Washington on, ending with a pair of googly-eyes peering out from a black background to symbolize President Obama.

When confronted, the aide to State Senator Diane Black said only that she regretted sending the image to the wrong email list and from her government address. She stated that she had been "reprimanded" by her supervisors but not otherwise punished, let alone sacked, for sending out the email on the taxpayer’s dime. Here’s an idea – send her to work at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis for a few months on furlough.


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
June 19th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

What’s on Tap – Friday June 19, 2009

Iranian supporters of defeated reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi demonstrate on June 18, 2009 in Tehran, Iran. Getty Images
Iranian supporters of defeated reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi demonstrate on June 18, 2009 in Tehran, Iran. Getty Images

Here are the big stories on the agenda today:

  • First the story we’re not even allowed to be telling: the unrest inside Iran.  The crackdown on communication continues, as Iran’s Supreme Leader denies rigging his country's disputed election… saying the people decided.  We’re monitoring social networking sites for stories the Iranian government doesn’t want you see, and have expert analysis from our Christiane Amanpour
  • Hawaii on alert. A North Korean ship no the move. Tensions high.  The U.S. is boosting anti-missile defenses around Hawaii this morning, after reports North Korea could launch its most powerful missile at the state.  The Pentagon says it's also watching a North Korean ship sailing through the pacific, saying it's probably carrying illegal weapons or technology.
  • 247 passengers flying from Brussels to Newark say they had no idea their pilot died – half way through the flight.  A doctor on-board says the 60-year-old pilot couldn't be revived and died of natural causes.  This morning we’re asking: would you wanna know?  Let us know at 1-877-MYAMFIX

Filed under: What's On Tap
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