Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal on Thursday apologized for an e-mail that made fun of First Lady Michelle Obama’s hairstyle and mockingly called her “Mrs. YoMama.”
The e-mails featured pictures comparing Mrs. Obama to the Grinch because of their similarly wind-blown hair.
“Sorry, just had to forward this latest holiday message,” O’Neal reportedly wrote in the e-mail he shared with fellow Republican lawmakers. “I’ve had worse hair days, but this is pretty funny.”
According to the Lawrence Journal World, O’Neal forwarded the e-mail from his personal computer that said, “I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Mrs. YoMama a wonderful, long Hawaii Christmas vacation — at our expense, of course.”
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The first family spent the holidays in Hawaii before returning to Washington, D.C., recently.
A spokeswoman for O’Neal said the speaker didn’t write the “yomama” remark about the first lady. And O’Neal said late Thursday in a statement that he missed that in the text of the original e-mail before passing it along.
“Cartoons are intended to be humorous. This one made me laugh — I’ve had bad hair days, too,” said O’Neal, who represents an area including Hutchinson. “I forwarded it too quickly, missing the text included in the body of the e-mail. To those I have offended, I am sorry. That was not at all my intent.”
The first lady’s office declined comment on the matter.
But the leader of the Kansas Democratic Party, Joan Wagnon, called it “highly offensive, disrespectful and unacceptable.”
“Regardless of how he feels about President Obama’s politics, Speaker O’Neal’s decision to promote language demeaning Mrs. Obama is simply wrong,” Wagnon said.
The leading Democrat in the House said the e-mail should be a cautionary tale for elected leaders.
“Public officials have to be careful what they send out and forward on e-mail,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence. “This is a reminder for all of us.”
Earlier Thursday, O’Neal had defended the e-mail, contending he was only making fun of his own bad hair days. In a statement, the speaker’s office said that “political cartoons are a part of American culture.”
“It’s hard to see how Mike O’Neal poking fun at himself and forwarding a lighthearted political cartoon about the first lady’s extravagant spending of taxpayer funds during a time when many Americans are financially struggling is newsworthy,” the statement said.
State Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, was one of the lawmakers who received the e-mail last week. Donohoe said he didn’t get past the pictures of the first lady, recalling only how he was struck by her hairstyle. He couldn’t remember the text.
The O’Neal incident comes just weeks after U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin apologized to the first lady for commenting on the size of her backside.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Sensenbrenner referred to Mrs. Obama’s “big butt” while talking to church members at a Christmas bazaar.
According to the newspaper’s account, Sensenbrenner believed Mrs. Obama was a hypocrite for undertaking a national initiative to fight obesity.