April 19th, 2011, 4:35 pm
Posted by Martin Wisckol, Politics reporter

The Orange County GOP chairman is being criticized for his public condemnation of an email depicting President Barack Obama as a chimp.

Deborah Pauly, the first vice chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, said the controversial email sent by another elected member of the county GOP’s governing Central Committee was a matter that should have not been handled in the public eye.

County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh publicly called on the sender, Marilyn Davenport, to resign and Monday ordered the committee to launch an ethics review. The accompanying negative publicity could have been avoided, Pauly said.

“It should have been handled internally,” Pauly said. “What Scott should have done is pick up the phone and talked to Marilyn.”

Pauly also criticized the Central Committee members who forwarded the email to former California GOP Chairman Mike Schroeder, who alerted the press and attacked the email as racist.

The controversy has attracted national attention, and a protest scheduled for Saturday outside Davenport’s Fulllerton home is to include members of Project Islamic H.O.P.E, the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network, said Najee Ali, director of the Los Angeles-based Project Islamic H.O.P.E.

Pauly said the image was “indefensible,” but said Davenport “wasn’t doing anything she thought was hurtful.”

Baugh has called the email “without question racist” and said it was important to publicly denounce the email immediately to make it clear that such behavior was not in the spirit of the Republican Party and would not be tolerated.

In addition to criticism of Baugh, some Republican activists have criticized Schroeder for alerting the press, saying he should be blamed for giving the county party a black eye.

“Mike Schroeder acted with intent to hurt Marilyn and to hurt the Orange County GOP,” said Teresa Trujillo. “It’s Mike Schroeder flexing his muscle. He took something that should have been inconsequential and turned it into an international media circus. Mike Schroeder should be the one apologizing to Marilyn Davenport and the Orange County GOP.”

Trujillo said Davenport intended the email to be joke among a few members of the Central Committee, to whom she sent the photo along with the text, “Now you know why – No birth certificate!”

“This is somebody who doesn’t understand the power of the Internet, and thought this was giggles among friends” Trujillo said.

But Schroeder said that such behavior by an elected official – especially when she sends the email to other elected officials – is nothing to keep quiet about.

“Anybody who sees it has an absolute responsibility to denounce it,” Schroeder said. “It shouldn’t be allowed to blow over. It shouldn’t have ever been part of a cover up.

“The minute I saw this, I went directly to the press. Anybody who doesn’t understand that this isn’t a fundamentally racist statement doesn’t understand racism.”

I asked Schroeder if this wasn’t one more in a series of recent incidents – including a Los Alamitos mayor sending an email depicting the White House garden as a watermelon patch and a Newport Beach councilman saying there were already “too many Mexicans on the beach” – that were tarring the GOP as racist.

“Every party from time to time has its nuts and its racists and they always will,” he said. “The Democrats had George Wallace and David Duke…. (Davenport) doesn’t represent the party – but how we respond to it does.”

Schroeder did not identify the two Central Committee members whom he said forwarded him Davenport’s email. But Pauly said she wants the ethics review to look into who the two were.

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