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Mayor of West Virginia town resigns after response to racist post about Michelle Obama, official says

Mayor of West Virginia town resigns after response to racist post about Michelle Obama, official says
First Lady Michelle Obama at an event at the White House on Nov. 14. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

The mayor of a West Virginia town resigned Tuesday amid fallout from a racist post on Facebook about First Lady Michelle Obama, an official said.

Joe Coleman, the town recorder in Clay, W.V., said that Mayor Beverly Whaling's resignation is effective immediately.

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Whaling earlier apologized for her response to a post made by Clay County Development Corp. director Pamela Ramsey Taylor after Republican Donald Trump's election as president. Taylor's post said, "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."

Whaling responded: "Just made my day Pam."

Taylor told WCHS-TV on Monday night that she was put on leave.

Clay's town council planned to discuss the issue at a previously scheduled meeting Tuesday evening.

The post, first reported by WSAZ-TV, caused a backlash and prompted calls for Taylor and Whaling to be fired. The post was shared hundreds of times on social media before it was deleted. The Facebook pages of Taylor and Whaling couldn't be found Monday.

In a follow-up Facebook post captured in screenshots, Taylor asked people not to share her original message and said it was in "no way" intended to be racist. She said she was "referring to my personal opinion of the attractiveness, not the color of the skin."

She also apologized for "any hurt my post may have caused," while defending her right to express an opinion.

Clay County Sheriff Garrett Samples told WSAZ that threats had been made against Taylor and Whaling, as well as other county workers.

The nonprofit Clay County Development Corp. provides services to elderly and low-income residents in Clay County. It is funded through state and federal grants and local fees. It is not affiliated with the town of Clay, which is about 50 miles east of Charleston.

According to the nonprofit organization's tax filings, in 2013 Taylor earned nearly $80,000 in reportable compensation as executive director.

Owens Brown, director of the NAACP's West Virginia chapter, is among those calling for the removal of both women.

"I feel so it's unfortunate that people still have these racist undertones," Brown said. "Unfortunately, this is a reality that we are dealing with in America today. There's no place for these types of attitudes in our state."

African Americans make up about 4% of West Virginia's 1.8 million residents, according to the U.S. census.

About 77% of Clay County residents supported Trump in the Nov. 8 election. In 2012, President Obama received 31% of the county vote when Republican Mitt Romney easily carried the state.

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Last week in Kentucky, Republican Dan Johnson defeated incumbent Democrat Linda Belcher in Bullitt County in a race for the state House of Representatives despite a series of Facebook posts by Johnson that depicted President Obama and his wife as monkeys. Republican officials, including likely new House Speaker Jeff Hoover, had called on Johnson to drop out of the race. But Hoover declared last week that Johnson would be "welcome in our caucus."

A Times staff writer contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with the mayor's resignation.

8:30 a.m.: This article has been updated with additional social media comments from Taylor and a local news report quoting the county sheriff.

9:07 a.m.: This article was updated with information about Taylor's salary.

This article was originally published at 7:05 a.m.

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