Foundation exec meets with NAACP over Obama blog image

Posted March 22, 2012 5:57 p.m. EDT
Updated March 22, 2012 6:51 p.m. EDT

— The president of the John Locke Foundation met with state NAACP leaders Thursday to discuss an altered image of President Barack Obama that appeared with a post by a blogger on the conservative group's website.

Blogger Tara Servatius posted a story Monday on the John Locke website stating that Obama's recent decision to take a public position against North Carolina's proposed marriage amendment to boost his chances of winning the state in November. Accompanying the story was an image of the president’s face Photoshopped onto a black man wearing high heels and chains, and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken was between the man's legs.

The image wasn't noticed for two days, but foundation President John Hood had it taken down as soon as he found out about it late Wednesday.

"I'm sorry it appeared on our site at all," Hood said Thursday. "Even if it had been a millisecond, it would have been too long."

The image outraged civil rights advocates, who called it racist and homophobic.

"We have to stand against this, and it should not just be an affront to black folks but to all of America," state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said.

Hood and Barber are expected to issue a joint statement about the controversy in the coming days.

Servatius, who used to host a conservative talk radio show in Charlotte, apologized Thursday afternoon for causing any controversy. She said she was looking for an image to illustrate her story and found the altered Obama image on the Internet.

"If it has offended anyone, I sincerely regret that. That was certainly not my intention, and I would feel awful if that was the case," Servatius said in a statement.

She added in a postscript that she didn't think about the racial implications of the image.

"I simply don't think in those terms. Unfortunately, some people do. To me, fried chicken is simply a Southern cuisine," she concluded.

Hood said the John Locke Foundation, one of the Southeast's leading conservative think-tanks, has several paid bloggers and generally trusts their judgment. Although he didn't find the story offensive, he said Servatius made a bad call on the image.

"Doing (that story) in a way with an illustration she found on the Internet and a headline that was grossly offensive and appropriate in no way shape or form on our site or anybody else" wasn't right, he said.

Hood and Servatius agreed that she would no longer be a paid blogger for the group.

At an NAACP conference in Raleigh, Barber said the image is part of a disturbing pattern in political discourse.

"You got this. You got people who are carrying guns to presidential events. You got a thing out there now talking about 'let's don't renig,'" Barber said. "The language and the rhetoric can set up other things – violence meanness and hurt."

Hood said he also is concerned about the tone of political debate these days. He said it has become increasingly extreme, personal and vitriolic across the political spectrum.