BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana State Senate employee was suspended without pay Tuesday after sending an e-mail to hundreds of government workers apparently trying to show President Barack Obama as white and suggesting that opposition to him doesn’t equate to racism.
Several African-American lawmakers replied to the e-mail, complaining that it was offensive.
The message, sent by Senate researcher Tammy Crain-Waldrop and obtained by The Associated Press, includes a doctored photo of Obama with light skin, blue eyes and a different hairstyle and says, “Do you like him any better now? No? Me neither ….. Then you’re not a racist.”
After she sent the e-mail, Crain-Waldrop sent another message apologizing and saying she sent it to the state Capitol e-mail post office box by mistake.
Senate spokeswoman Brenda Hodge said Crain-Waldrop was suspended without pay pending an investigation. Crain-Waldrop could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
It’s unclear how many employees in state offices received the e-mail beyond legislators, their staffs and others who work directly in the Capitol. Several people, including three black legislators, replied to the message to complain about it. Copies of the e-mails were also provided to the AP.
“This is not funny at all and I think it should not have been sent over a public e-mail system,” wrote Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, in an e-mailed response to the state Capitol post office box.
“This is NO where near funny!!! This is very offensive,” said Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, in another e-mail.
The head of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. Patricia Smith, said the caucus didn’t ask for any specific action against Crain-Waldrop but would wait to see what type of reprimand she receives for the e-mail.
“It’s a personnel matter as of right now,” said Smith, D-Baton Rouge. “Those of us who responded were not very pleased and were very disappointed that it was sent at all. It’s not taken lightly, I can tell you that.”
A spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office said he didn’t know of any members of the governor’s staff receiving the e-mail Tuesday. But spokesman Kyle Plotkin said in a statement: “There’s no room for this type of discourse when we face serious challenges as a state and country. We can disagree without being disagreeable.”
The Louisiana Senate fired its secretary, Mike Baer, in 2004 after he sent a series of sexual jokes to the state Capitol e-mail post office box. At the time, Baer said he meant to delete the jokes but hit the wrong button on his computer and accidentally forwarded them. An investigation disputed Baer’s explanation.