The director of a state and federal-funded nonprofit in West Virginia has been removed after writing a racist Facebook post referring to first lady Michelle Obama as an “ape in heels.”
Clay County Development Corp. director Pamela Ramsey Taylor wrote the offensive post after Donald Trump was elected president in an exchange that also embroiled the mayor of Clay, a small town near Charleston.
“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,” she wrote.
Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling replied to the comment, “Just made my day Pam.”
Taylor later deleted the post, but screenshots of the exchange have been shared widely on social media and critics began calling for the removal of both officials on Sunday night.
A petition calling for them to be fired had garnered more than 84,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
Clay County has 8,910 residents, 98.2 percent of whom are white, according to 2015 census data estimates. Two-tenths of 1 percent of residents are black. “More than three-quarters of the presidential votes cast in the county went to Trump,” The Washington Post reported Monday.
Both of the under-fire officials appear to have deleted their Facebook pages. Taylor had earlier posted an apology saying that her message “may be interpreted as racist but was in no way intended to be,” according to local news station WSAZ.
She told WSAZ reporter Jatara McGee the backlash against her Facebook post “has been a hate crime against me.” Taylor added that she has has received death threats over her comment.
The mayor has also apologized in a statement to The Washington Post:
“My comment was not intended to be racist at all. 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!”
Officials told The Associated Press that a town council meeting was already scheduled for Tuesday.
UPDATE: 5:35 p.m. ― Whaling announced Tuesday afternoon that she was stepping down.
“I, Beverly Whaling, will be resigning as mayor of the town of Clay, effective immediately,” she said in a statement.