Virginia Beach is the biggest city in Virginia, and the hometown of the state’s current Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell. Now it’s also home to the latest example of a racist email forward destroying a prominent conservative’s political credibility and possibly career.
As the progressive Blue Virgina blog reported Monday — and I independently confirmed from one of the recipients Tuesday — Virginia Beach Republican Party chair Dave Bartholomew forwarded a racist email comparing African Americans to dogs. The email, subject line “my, dog,” consists of a racist parable about African Americans and welfare. In the first 24 hours since the email came to light, Democrats condemned Bartholomew and he resigned his position with the Republican Party.
The text of the message, in full:
I went down this morning to sign up my Dog for welfare.
At first the lady said, “Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare”.
So I explained to her that my Dog is black, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and has no frigging clue who his Daddy is.
So she looked in her policy book to see what it takes to qualify…
My Dog gets his first check Friday.
Is this a great country or what?
The recipient I talked to — who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that even acknowledging receiving the message would hurt the recipient professionally — called the message “disgusting” and “repulsive” and said it was deleted upon arriving in the recipient’s inbox.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Tea Party Express Hosts ‘National Black Conservatives Rally’]
Virgina Beach Democrats shared in the sentiment. “This type of racist behavior has no place in politics,” Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA), who represents the Second District that includes Virgina Beach, told Blue Virgina.
“I am baffled by Mr. Bartholomew’s unabashed propagation of prejudice and hate,” Virginia Beach Democratic Party chair Susan Mariner told the blogger.
Nye’s Republican opponent, Scott Rigell, issued a statement condemning the email as well. He called the email “reprehensible” and said “it stands in stark contrast to the core values of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, and my personal belief in a colorblind society.”
By Tuesday morning the heat was becoming too much for Bartholomew to handle. Second District GOP chair Gary Byler told the Virginian-Pilot that Bartholomew “agreed to resign because the e-mail had become a distraction to the Nov. 2 election.” He offered this to the paper by way of explanation for the racist email:
The e-mail was dated March 15 and sent from the address that Bartholomew uses as party chairman. Bartholomew forwarded it without reading the contents when “he was first getting familiar with the Internet,” Byler said.
Byler assured the paper that Bartholomew is “not a racist.”
Vickie Wilson, legislative director for Del. Robert Tata (R-Virgina Beach) suggested to me Tuesday it was the politics of the situation, not the contents of the email, that led to the shakeup at the city Republican Party.
“That’s what people are calling for, the Democrats, that’s what several groups are calling for,” Wilson said when I asked her about the resignation. “They saw it, were outraged and he said, you know, ‘I’ll do the right thing and I’ll resign.’”
Wilson called me back after I left a message on the Virgina Beach GOP’s answering machine looking for comment on the email. I asked her if she thought people were “blowing the email out of proportion.”
“Oh, absolutely they are!” she said. Wilson said it was possible Bartholomew sent the email “for awareness,” what she characterized as “sending it to somebody and saying ‘look how pathetic people think this is.’”
“Either way, whether he did it out of a joke or out of ‘we need to make awareness,’ it doesn’t matter,” she said. “His name was attached to it and whether he had good intentions, bad intentions or no intentions it’s come back on him.”
Bartholomew did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Regardless of the circumstances behind the message, the resignation makes Bartholomew just the latest conservative leader to lose his job or damage his credibility after racist emails have become public. Several months ago, the former chair of the Tea Party Express, Mark Williams, got himself in hot water after his racist emails were exposed. Williams later resigned from the Tea Party Express after another flap over racially-tinged Internet comments.
In New York, Republican gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino has faced a barrage of questions after his racist and pornographic emails were published.
And in July of last year, prominent health care reform opponent Dr. David McKalip caused a stir when his email depicting President Obama as a witch doctor was exposed.
Wilson said the incident in Virginia Beach suggests emailers should maybe think twice before they hit send.
“I hate to say it,” she told me. “But all this technology is in some cases a really bad thing.”