Racist email sent by Tennessee state worker stirs up controversy

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Democratic legislators in Tennessee demanded Monday that a state employee who works for a Republican lawmaker be fired for using a state computer to send a racist e-mail about President Barack Obama.

Sherri Goforth, a legislative aide for Tennessee State Senator Diane Black, sent the e-mail last month to other staff for Republican senators.

It shows a portrait or photo of each U.S. president except Obama, who is depicted with wide eyes in a black background.

Black said Monday that she didn’t know about the e-mail until another staffer informed her.

“The communication sent from this office does absolutely not reflect my opinions or my beliefs,” she said. “I won’t tolerate those kinds of communications coming from this office.

“She made a mistake, and it was a mistake, but regardless of why she sent it out, I just want to be clear that that is not acceptable in this office,” Black added.

Black, who is white, acknowledged that Goforth sent the e-mail from her state computer and that it’s a policy violation.

She said she decided after consulting with state human resources staff to reprimand Goforth verbally and place a written reprimand in her file, adding that Goforth is a 20-year employee who has had a good record.

State Representative John Deberry, a Memphis Democrat and chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus, said the latest incident is hurtful to all Tennesseans.

“My hope is we will take a long introspective examination of ourselves and realize we still have a tremendous amount of work to do,” he said.