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Monday 22 January 2018

Mayor apologises amid Michelle Obama 'ape in heels' backlash

The director and the mayor have been urged to step down over remarks about Michelle Obama (AP)
The director and the mayor have been urged to step down over remarks about Michelle Obama (AP)

The mayor of a West Virginia town has issued an apology for her response to a racist post on Facebook comparing first lady Michelle Obama to an ape.

Beverly Whaling, mayor of Clay, was responding after Clay County Development Corporation director Pamela Ramsey Taylor posted following Donald Trump's election as president: "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."

Ms Whaling replied "Just made my day Pam", but the posts sparked an angry backlash, with calls for both women to be fired. An online petition is seeking to remove Ms Whaling and Ms Taylor.

Ms Whaling said her comment was not intended to be racist, claiming in a statement that she was referencing the change in the presidency.

Clay's town council plans to discuss the issue at a previously scheduled meeting later on Tuesday.

Ms Taylor told WCHS-TV on Monday night that she had been put on leave by Clay County Development Corporation.

The non-profit development group provides services to elderly and low-income residents in Clay County, and 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 Coloured People's West Virginia chapter, was among those calling for the removal of both women.

"I feel so it's unfortunate that people still have these racist undertones," Mr 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% of West Virginia's 1.8 million residents, according to the US census.

About 77% of Clay County residents supported Mr Trump in the November 8 election. In 2012, Barack Obama received 31% 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 despite a series of Facebook posts which depicted Barack Obama and his wife as monkeys.


Press Association

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