Emailed joke causes stir

An email forwarded by a legislative staffer Tuesday is causing a flap among some at the General Assembly.

Posted Updated

Laura Leslie

An email mocking President Obama went to all legislators Tuesday on the General Assembly email system, forwarded to them by Shirley Winstead, a legislative assistant for Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne. 

The message went out at 11:45, and Winstead tried to recall the message a few minutes later.

An hour later, she sent a follow-up message: "I accidentally sent an email earlier today that was not intentional, and I apologize. I certainly did not mean to offend anyone and cannot express enough how sorry I am for the mistake I made."

Winstead insists she never meant to forward the message to all legislative members. She broke into tears when WRAL News reporter Cullen Browder went to ask her about it.

The message, which referred to President Obama as a "pompous a--" who is afraid of schoolchildren, ruffled some feathers on the Democratic side of the aisle. At least one, Sen. Eric Mansfield, D-Cumberland, said a formal apology would be in order. 

House Legislative Assistant Director Dianne Russell said that, while it was "clearly inappropriate" to forward the email on legislative computers, it isn't an ethics violation because it didn't involve campaigning.

Russell also told WRAL News that she doesn't have the power to take disciplinary action. That would have to come from Winstead's boss, Sager.

Sager says that won't happen. "I stand 100 percent behind her," he said. "She’s too nice a person to do something like that on purpose. No ill will intended.”

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