Marilyn Davenport, the Orange County Republican Central Committee member who forwarded an e-mail with a picture of President Barack Obama's face on the body of a baby chimpanzee, was censured by the committee today.
"She was censured by the party, which is the highest form of disapproval for an ethics violation,'' Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Scott Baugh told City News Service.
"The premise for the censure is she knew the e-mail was controversial before she sent it, and she sent it anyway. And instead of owning up to the gravity of it, she sought to downplay it and blame others for leaking it to the media.''
Davenport could not be reached for comment, but central committee member Tim Whitacre criticized Baugh and former California Republican Party Chairman Michael Schroeder.
"It's no surprise to anybody. This was a predetermined outcome by Scott Baugh,'' Whitacre said. "The ethics committee is appointed and controlled by Scott Baugh, so no one is surprised by this outcome. It's a bogus result.''
Whitacre went onto accuse Baugh of using the party bylaws incorrectly to censure Davenport. Last month, Davenport made national headlines when it was publicized that she forwarded an e-mail to party members that included a picture with Obama's face superimposed over a baby chimp's and the caption, "Now you know why—No birth certificate!''
Contending that it was Baugh who leaked the embarrassing e-mail to the media, Whitacre challenged Baugh to release his phone records and allow his computer to be searched by an expert to prove that he did not.
"It was Scott Baugh and Mike Schroeder who caused the media onslaught,'' Whitacre said.
Efforts to reach Schroeder were unsuccessful. Baugh denied playing a role in the leak.
"I never communicated any of that e-mail or the contents to Mr. Schroeder through electronic or verbal means or to the media for that matter,'' Baugh said. "It's a convenient ploy to blame others for doing exactly what you did, which was forwarding a racist e-mail to others in the community.''
Baugh said he had tried to resolve the issue privately with Davenport before it was released to the media.
"As chairman of the party, it's my duty to try to handle these things in a discreet fashion when they arise, and that's what I was trying to do in a private e-mail with Marilyn,'' Baugh said.
"It was Marilyn who later shared that private e-mail with the media. I wish we could have dealt with it internally before it became a media circus.''
As he has in the past month, Baugh again called on Davenport to resign from her elected position. Whitacre said he spoke with Davenport today and she still has no intention of resigning.
"It's her call whether she wants to stay or go,'' Baugh said.
Baugh said he has received more than 1,000 calls to the about the e-mail, and "95 percent of them are calls to say she should resign.''
Baugh added that Davenport could have avoided the rebuke had she stuck to her written apology, which was issued April 18. Two days later, she held a news conference in front of her Fullerton home, which undid the goodwill she accomplished with her written apology, Baugh said.
"She issued that sincere apology on Monday night, and then the following Wednesday she went on some media tour suggesting it wasn't racist and casting doubt on Obama's birth [in the U.S.] and seeking still to blame others for putting it in the media,'' Baugh said.
"The bottom line is she hit the 'send' button. Much of the good accomplished by her apology was undone by her culture of blame.''
However, Davenport was within her rights to hold the news conference, said Whitacre.
"Marilyn had every right to stand up and tell her side,'' Whitacre said. "Up to that point it was Baugh and Schroeder spreading their lies ... I wanted everyone to see Marilyn Davenport—a 74-year-old woman unscripted.''
During the news conference, Davenport said she wasn't sure if Obama was born in the United States, and she denied that the e-mail was racist. Instead, she contended it was political satire.
"It was inappropriate, and as I say, I would not do that again,'' Davenport said. "As I said before, it struck me as just political satire. It's been around, I guess it's been around many times, but it was an unwise thing, a very unwise thing.''
City News Service contributed to this report.