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Anti-Obama post spreads across Net

  • Merced Sun-Star
  • Published Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, at 1:25 p.m.

TURLOCK -- A Turlock woman's racially tinged rant against President Barack Obama and her employer's decision to fire her remained a hot topic across the Internet and social media Friday.

After the president's re-election Tuesday night, Denise Helms used the n-word to describe Obama on her Facebook page, then said, "Maybe he will get assassinated this term..!!"

One of her Facebook friends used Twitter to share Helms' post, which caught the attention of a Sacramento TV station and then The Bee.

By Wednesday night, Helms was tearfully telling her employer at Cold Stone Creamery in Turlock that she was receiving threats.

By Thursday at noon, he fired her.

By Friday, the story had gone viral.

It became the second most read story at Modbee.com for the year, trailing only the report detailing the relationship between ex-Enochs High School teacher James Hooker and his former student.

Media outlets from The Associated Press to the Huffington Post picked it up.

"You shouldn't let privacy settings on any social network give you a false sense of security," said Rebecca Jeschke, digital media analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "What computers do is make copies. If you see something on a screen, you can copy and send it to someone else.

"You can't unring the bell. Once it's online, it's done."

The Turlock store's Facebook page included four comments Friday afternoon, two from people who supported Helms and vowed to take their business to another ice cream shop and two who backed the decision to fire her.

Store owner Duane Costa offered his apology to the people of Turlock as well as Obama and said he didn't have a choice in firing Helms.

"I had to take everything into consideration -- her welfare at work and that of the other workers," he said. "I can't have a hostile work environment. I had other employees who were afraid to come to work."

Costa and store manager Chris Kegle said Helms, who worked 25 or 30 hours a week, never had given any hint of her feelings before this week. Kegle said many of the store's employees were Facebook friends.

"She said some disgusting things," Costa said. "The use of the n-word is offensive. I think this is an unfortunate situation and we'd just like it to go away."

In response to multiple critics on Twitter, Cold Stone Creamery corporate officials in Scottsdale, Ariz., sent this tweet: "Please know this employee is no longer with the company & her disgraceful remarks do not reflect our views."

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