Apr 19, 2011

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IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California GOP official who sent out an e-mail picturing President Barack Obama's face on the body of a baby chimpanzee issued an apology late Monday after a weekend of criticism that ended with a strongly worded public rebuke from the local Republican Party chairman, who also called for an ethics investigation into the incident.

Marilyn Davenport, a 74-year-old Fullerton resident and elected member of the Orange County Republican Central Committee, sent an email Monday afternoon asking for forgiveness for her "unwise behavior," just before the GOP committee met for its monthly summit at a hotel in Irvine, where the fallout from the incident was the hot topic.

The email sent on Friday by Davenport to a small group of GOP committee members shows an image posed like a family portrait, of chimpanzee parents and child, with Obama's face superimposed on the young chimp. Text beneath the picture reads, "Now you know why no birth certificate."

"To my fellow Americans and to everyone else who has seen this email I forwarded and was offended by my action, I humbly apologize and ask for your forgiveness of my unwise behavior. I say unwise because at the time I received and forwarded the email, I didn't stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive," Davenport's apology read.

"I am an imperfect Christian lady who tries her best to live a Christ-like honoring life. I would never do anything to intentionally harm or berate others regardless of ethnicity. Everyone who knows me knows that to be true."

Davenport, who was not present at the meeting, represents the 72nd Assembly District in Orange County on the committee, which is made up of volunteer officials elected for two-year terms. The group is tasked with fundraising, campaigning and debating policy for the Republican Party.

The county's GOP chairman, Scott Baugh, told about 75 GOP members that despite Davenport's "sincere apology," he still condemned her actions and believed she should resign because her presence on the committee would remain controversial and provide a distraction.

"The eyes of the nation are focused on us tonight because of the actions of a member of this committee. I do not know what was in the heart of Marilyn Davenport when she sent that email, only she does. I want to accept and do accept that Marilyn is not a racist," Baugh said.

"The email is without question extremely racist. Depicting African-Americans as monkey is a longtime, well-known and particularly offensive slur because it denies them their basic humanity."

The body's ethics committee would investigate the incident, interview Davenport and make a report back to the executive committee within a week, Baugh said.

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