First Lady Michelle Obama is among the most popular public figures in the U.S. but is still on the receiving end of racially motivated attacks--and it's not just anonymous internet trolls. An Alabama police officer was fired from his department after superiors discovered offensive social media posts, including one that targeted FLOTUS (photos below).
On Nov. 16, former Officer Joel Husk of the Talladega Police Department was fired after a series of memes he had shared on Facebook kicked off a public outcry. Talladega City Manager Patrick Bryant stated that Husk’s social media activity had violated the department’s code of conduct policies.
“As public employees, and especially law enforcement officers, we have a standard of excellence to uphold,” Bryant told The Washington Post.
Husk, 37, had shared several racially-loaded memes, one equating the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement with the Ku Klux Klan, another demanding that descendants of slavery thank whites who had fought in the Civil War. One of his shared memes even accused BLM of being a domestic terrorist group that had carried out the Dallas police attack on behalf of President Barack Obama.
One meme passed along by Husk featured a side-by-side comparison of a flattering photo of incoming FLOTUS Melania Trump and a decidedly unflattering image of Michelle Obama.
“Fluent in Slovenian, English, French, Serbian, and German,” the meme said of Mrs. Trump. Meanwhile, the meme derided Mrs. Obama as “Fluent in Ghetto.”
On Nov. 15, Bryant became aware of Husk’s incendiary social-media posts. The next day, the officer was fired after two and a half years in the department.
“Honesty and integrity are of the utmost importance, and those qualities in a public servant are the foundation upon which good government is laid,” Bryant said. “We are only as effective as the trust the community has in us."
Michelle Obama is currently one of the most popular public figures in the U.S. In August, a Gallup survey that measured the public perception of FLOTUS and the two major party nominees’ spouses found that Mrs. Obama had an approval rating of 64 percent, giving her a double-digit lead in popularity over Mrs. Trump and former President Bill Clinton.
Despite her favorability, FLOTUS has often been the target of racist disparagement. Clay County Development director Pamela Ramsey Taylor of West Virginia sparked outrage when she referred to Mrs. Obama as an animal on social media.
“It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House,” Taylor wrote on her Facebook. “I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.”
Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling chimed in on the post, telling Taylor that she had “made my day.”
On Nov. 15, Whaling resigned amid public outrage for endorsing Taylor’s characterization of FLOTUS.
In 2015, Mrs. Obama addressed the racially-charged ways she has been depicted over the years during a graduation ceremony address at Tuskegee University, Alabama.
“There was the first time I was on a magazine cover — it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and machine gun,” Mrs. Obama said. “Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me?”
FLOTUS added that she and President Obama had grown accustomed to people questioning “our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.”