‘Ape in heels’: W.Va. officials under fire after comments about Michelle Obama
First lady Michelle Obama meets with Melania Trump for tea in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo—© Chuck Kennedy/White House photo)
By Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post
A nonprofit group’s director and a mayor in a small town in West Virginia have been swept up in a firestorm surrounding comments about Michelle Obama that have been perceived as blatantly racist.
After Donald Trump’s election as president, Pamela Ramsey Taylor, who was director of Clay, County Development Corp. in Clay County a tiny town outside Charleston, reportedly posted about the move from Michelle Obama to Melania Trump on Facebook, saying: “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels,” according to NBC affiliate WSAZ.
The news station reported that the town’s mayor, Beverly Whaling, then replied, “Just made my day Pam.”
The comments were later deleted, but images of the post have been shared widely, on social media. As of Monday afternoon, an online petition calling for the women’s terminations had garnered more than 14,000 signatures.
Both of their Facebook pages have been removed, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Two-tenths of 1 percent of Clay County’s residents are African American, according to census data. More than three-quarters of the presidential votes cast in the county went to Trump.
The two women have apologized for their remarks.
“My comment was not intended to be racist at all,” Whaling said in a statement to The Washington Post. “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 of any way racist!
“Again, I would like to apologize for this getting out of hand!”
Taylor could not be reached for comment, but WSAZ re-ported that she had issued an apology on Facebook.
However, Taylor told the news station that the public response had become a “hate crime against me,” explaining that she and her children had received death threats. She said she is planning to file a lawsuit against people who have slandered or libeled her, according to the news station.
A representative of Clay County Development Corp., a nonprofit funded with state and federal money, said the board “removed” Taylor from her position as director and appointed Leslie McGlothlin to take her place. McGlothlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Clay Town Councilman Ja-son Hubbard told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that the town will address the incident at a council meeting Tuesday night.