State group apologizes for blog post's Obama image

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2012

RALEIGH (AP) — A prominent conservative think tank in North Carolina apologized Thursday for a freelance blogger’s decision to post a photo illustration depicting President Barack Obama clad in sexually suggestive clothing and eating from a bucket of fried chicken.
John Hood, president of the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation, said he had the image was removed from the group’s Meck Deck blog on Wednesday after a reader brought it to his attention. Tara Servatius, the writer who posted the illustration, ended her association with the blog Thursday morning before Hood had a chance to ask her to leave, he said.
“I’m embarrassed and angry today,” Hood said in a statement. “The illustration associated with this blog entry was offensive and utterly inappropriate for our blog or for anyone else’s.”
On his Facebook page, Hood wrote, “She is no longer a contributor to our site,” referring to Servatius. “I would have made that decision for her, but she beat me to the punch by ending her role.”
The image, which was no longer available on the Meck Deck site but could still be seen on a blog post by WRAL-TV reporter Laura Leslie, is a small and low-resolution depiction of the president’s head crudely pasted onto a body clad in high-heeled boots and other garments suggestive of fetish wear. Between his spread legs is a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The image accompanied a post by Servatius titled “Obama Goes Pro Gay Marriage to Get NC on Election Day,” in which she argued that the president had electoral strategy in mind when he criticized the proposed amendment to North Carolina’s constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.
“I am genuinely sorry my inclusion of the photo has caused controversy for the John Locke Foundation,” Servatius wrote Thursday in an email in response to a question from The Associated Press. “If it has offended anyone, I sincerely apologize. It was meant to illustrate Obama’s southern political strategy, nothing more. An honest reading of the piece itself shows there is nothing offensive in it.”
Servatius found the image when searching online for an illustration of the president in drag, she said, to underscore her point about the strategy of appealing to young voters on the issue of gay marriage. She said she didn’t think of the picture’s racial implications.
“I simply don’t think in those terms. Unfortunately some people do,” she wrote. “To me, fried chicken is simply a Southern cuisine.”
The John Locke Foundation, founded in 1990, does research and advocacy work on mostly state-level policy issues, with a special focus on topics like taxation, government spending and education.
The president of the state NAACP chapter called the image racist and homophobic, and said Thursday he plans to seek more answers about it.
“It is reckless and dangerous,” the Rev. William Barber said.