Racist post about Michelle Obama sparks West Virginia review of nonprofit

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2016 1:32 PM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A West Virginia nonprofit has reinstated a director who stepped down last month after calling first lady Michelle Obama "an ape in heels," prompting the state government to review its contracts with the group, the governor's office said on Tuesday.

Pamela Taylor resigned her position last month as director of social services group Clay County Development Corp, after her comment about the first lady on Facebook went viral online and sparked outrage.

"The State of West Virginia vehemently opposes any discriminatory and harassing sentiments, language or actions,” the office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Because of Taylor's comments, "we have been and continue to review those contracts to determine any alternatives the state might have," it said.

The Clay County Development Corp provides financial assistance and senior services to low-income and elderly residents.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that the nonprofit received about $1.5 million in federal funding and $363,000 in state funding in 2014. A spokesman for Clay County Development Corp could not be reached for comment.

After the Nov. 8 election, Taylor had praised the change from Obama to former model Melania Trump, the wife of President-elect Donald Trump, a Republican.

"It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified first lady back in the White House. I'm tired of seeing an ape in heels," she wrote.

Beverly Whaling, the mayor of tiny Clay, West Virginia, resigned after coming under fire for replying to Taylor's Facebook comment, "Just made my day Pam."

The state medical and senior services bureaus said in a Dec. 7 letter to Clay County Development Corp that they needed assurances that harassment and discrimination would be not be tolerated.

The agencies also sought guarantees that Taylor and other employees had not discriminated against people getting state services. A copy of the letter was provided to Reuters by the Bureau of Senior Services.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)