By Joe Hallett
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
A longtime employee of the Ohio Republican Party will be disciplined for electronically forwarding a racist joke about the Rev. Jesse Jackson, according to the party's chairman.
Robert T. Bennett said yesterday that he likely will suspend Rita Graham, 47, a finance officer, for circulating a racially insensitive e-mail she apparently received from outside GOP headquarters.
"Her inappropriate behavior was forwarding anything like that outside the office and inside the office," Bennett said. "We're going to talk to the entire staff about this. Beyond that, we're going to take some disciplinary action, but we'll keep it as an internal matter."
Jason Mauk, executive director of the state party, said that after getting the e-mail, Graham apparently forwarded it to at least two other employees at GOP headquarters and to some friends outside the building. The e-mail forwarded by Graham contained the "ohiogop.org" Web address.
"It's clearly offensive and inappropriate, and we have no tolerance for the circulation of that type of material, even if it is in jest," Mauk said.
The e-mail, in part, said the following: "Jesse Jackson got out of the shower and was drying off when he looked in the mirror and noticed he was white from the neck up to the top of his head. In sheer panic and fearing he was turning white and might have to start working for a living, he called his doctor and told him of his problem."
It went on to say that the doctor ordered Jackson to drink brown liquid because he was "a quart low" on "bull - - - -."
Bennett said the party annually provides instruction to employees on diversity and racial sensitivity.
It marked the second time in about a year that the state party has been forced to deal with socially intolerant e-mails sent from its headquarters.
In July 2006, Bennett fired Gary Lankford as the party's social conservative coordinator for sending an e-mail that linked its readers to a Web log that questioned the sexual orientation of now-Gov. Ted Strickland and his wife, Frances. Bennett apologized to the Stricklands.
While deploring the content of the e-mail forwarded by Graham, Bennett said that incident was less egregious than the Lankford incident.
"They are entirely different," Bennett said, noting that the e-mail about the Stricklands "was something generated by Lankford and then sent out without my approval."