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Posted at 11:01 AM ET, 01/06/2012

‘Mrs. YoMama’: Kansas lawmaker apologizes for e-mail making fun of Michelle Obama’s appearance

Michelle Obama carries a bag of toys donated by Executive Office staffers into a Toys for Tots event at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling on Dec. 16. Toys for Tots distributes toys to underprivileged children. (Evan Vucci - AP)
The speaker of the Kansas House has apologized after forwarding an e-mail that made fun of first lady Michelle Obama’s appearance and referred to her as “Mrs. YoMama.”

In Republican Mike O’Neal’s apology, first reported in the Lawrence Journal-World, he said he forwarded the e-mail without even reading it, and had no idea it referred to Mrs. Obama with a blatant racist slur.

The part that cracked him up, and that he fully intended to forward, he said, was the cartoon of Mrs. Obama getting her hair blown by the wind next to a drawing of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch who stole Christmas. The caption asked, “Twins separated at birth?”

In a statement, O’Neal insisted that he had forwarded the cartoon because “I’ve had bad hair days too. I forwarded it too quickly, missing the text included in the body of the e-mail. To those I have offended, I am sorry. That was not at all my intent.”

So, he sent it in an empathetic moment of, “Who among us has not had hair that won’t behave?” I don’t know Mr. O’Neal; he could be a person obsessed with his locks for all I know, though his close-cropped look argues otherwise.

But it is unfortunate that the flat-out racist e-mail so closely follows the comment of O’Neal’s fellow Republican, Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner, that Mrs. Obama “lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”

As my colleague Mary Curtis wrote earlier this week, “can you imagine how the incident would play out if an African American congressman made a crude remark about First Lady Laura Bush’s body? It certainly would have taken more than an insincere apology to wash that sin away.”

As a handy guide to any other officeholders confused about how to avoid the unwelcome impression that your party includes an unwieldy number of people with unfortunate views on race and gender, I’m here to help: Comments disparaging a woman’s physical appearance rarely strike 51 percent of the population as hilarious. Backsides, for instance, are never an appropriate topic of discussion. Racial put-downs are also to be avoided; those photos of Africans circulated by New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino are a good example of what not to do.

Further, as the speaker of the House of his state, O’Neal might want to more closely scrutinize the materials he’s forwarding from his personal e-mail account so as to avoid the misimpression that he is not paying attention, has too much time on his hands, and was endowed by his creator with a sense of humor rather less sophisticated than his fellow Kansans might hope.

This is not O’Neal’s first opportunity to learn this lesson; just recently, he sent a message to House Republicans referring to President Obama with a Bible verse that says, “Let his days be few and brief.”

His spokeswoman, Alyson Rodee, said her boss meant the president no harm, but was referring to Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office.

If that’s the case, he and others should stop fueling the notion that some Americans are driven wild by the thought of a black “posterior” of any dimension in the White House.

By  |  11:01 AM ET, 01/06/2012

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