The racism that propelled Donald Trump to the presidency reared its head in a particularly unsettling manner when Pamela Taylor, the now former development director for Clay County, West Virginia, posted on Facebook that she was thrilled to get a First Lady who wasn’t an “ape in heels” like Michelle Obama. Taylor has now been sentenced to ten months in prison and two months of house arrest, although it’s for an unrelated crime. She took more than $18,000 in relief benefits from FEMA for people whose homes were damaged in 2016 flooding even though her home was, quite simply, not damaged.
As part of her sentencing arrangement, Taylor had to pay back the money she took, which she’s already done according to prosecutors, although she’s also liable for a fine of $10,000. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart shared of the case:
‘There’s no such thing as a little bit of FEMA fraud. Taylor’s fraudulent scheme took FEMA dollars away from those who needed it the most.’
Ironically, FEMA has come under harsh scrutiny in the last couple of years for not having enough dollars to go around in the first place. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the federal disaster response agency failed to respond adequately to the devastation and recovery languished for months on end. Power wasn’t even back on for the whole island until almost a full year after the storm hit, and in that intervening time, almost 3,000 people died from the immediate effects of the storm and its aftermath — a figure President Donald Trump dismissed as “fake news.”
At the time of the original late 2016 Facebook post deriding Michelle Obama as an “ape in heels,” the West Virginia state government itself got involved. Then-Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin shared that they requested “specific assurances that the CCDC is following anti-discrimination policies” in the wake of the debacle, referring to the particular Clay County Development Agency that Taylor worked for. Besides her departure, Clay, West Virginia’s Mayor Beverly Whaling also left her position at the time over the same mess, resigning after she commented supportively on Taylor’s post.
She had shared:
‘It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.’
In stark contrast to the fifteen minutes of fame that these people got, Michelle Obama remains wildly popular, even years after leaving her position in the White House. She’s been completing multiple legs of a global book tour in support of her memoir Becoming, which has shot up to the point of being the possibly best selling memoir ever, with some ten million copies sold and counting. There’s a memoir on the way from her husband former President Barack Obama as well, and considering the success of her book, it’s sure to also do well.
Trump has at times sought to define his time in office with dismantling the Obama legacy, but considering their popularity, that might not get him very far, especially if former Vice President Joe Biden successfully wins the Democratic presidential nomination ahead of 2020 after having served alongside the Obamas.
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