POSTED: 5:34 pm CST March 6, 2010
UPDATED: 7:08 pm CST March 6, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Walt Baker spent Saturday apologizing for an e-mail he sent to a few close friends, including a legislative aide, the president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, and members of the press.
"I am sorry for my actions. I am sorry for the offensive contents of the email," Baker said. "I can only hope those that know me can find it in their hearts to forgive me."
The e-mail starts off saying, "I don't care who you are, ... this is funny." It then compares first lady Michelle Obama to Tarzan's sidekick Cheeta, a chimpanzee. At the bottom of the e-mail is a picture of Michelle Obama in an awkward moment with her lips pursed. Next to it is a picture of a picture of a chimpanzee with a similar expression.
As the CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association and a representative of the state's hotels and restaurants, Baker is trying to make amends.
"I'm disappointed in myself," he said.
But many feel the damage is already done.
"Who wants to come to a state where people think like that? This is far reaching and it's damaging," said District 3 Metro Council Member Walter Hunt.
Hunt is outraged by the e-mail, and can't believe Tennessee is in a negative light again over email.
"How can somebody be so stupid after it happened twice before," he asked.
Those two e-mails were sent in the last year.
In October, 800 state workers got an e-mail from a state trooper proclaiming "white pride."
Just four months before that, a legislative aide sent an e-mail to 20 other Senate staffers with portraits of the presidents. President Barack Obama was seen only as a pair of eyes from a black background.
"We've got to stop making those kind of comments and sending those kind of e-mails out because it's just got to stop," Hunt said. "Nashville is better than that. Tennessee is better than that."
Many are calling for Walt Baker's resignation from the Tennessee Hospitality Association. The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau released a statement Saturday apologizing for the offensive e-mail and announcing the termination of Walt Baker's agency's contract with the bureau.
Not surprised, but yeah.