Herb DeGroft, Virginia School Board Member, Faces Ouster After Sending Racist Michelle Obama Emails

A string of racist emails and controversial remarks have shaken up a school board in southeastern Virginia's Isle of Wight County, and now one of the people responsible is facing intense pressure to resign.

On Thursday, board members voted 4 to 1 to officially call for their colleague Herb DeGroft to step down over emails he sent this month from his board email account attacking first lady Michelle Obama. DeGroft was the only one who voted against the measure.

According to NBC12, one of the emails DeGroft sent to colleagues depicted bare-breasted, African female warriors along with the caption, "Michelle Obama's high school reunion." Another message claimed the first lady was paid $50 to model in National Geographic.

The emails didn't stop with DeGroft's initial sending. Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Byron “Buzz” Bailey forwarded them to other board members and county employees. Bailey drew criticism earlier this month for saying "the South will rise again" during a board meeting on budgetary issues. Those comments, as well as his involvement with the racist emails, which led Isle of Wight Division Superintendent Katrise Perera to announce that she planned to resign.

Isle of Wight NAACP Chapter President Dottie Harris and other community members have called for both DeGroft and Bailey to resign over the recent flare-up, the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va., reports. They've also threatened to mount a recall effort against Bailey.

DeGroft has apologized and expressed regret for his involvement in the controversy, claiming that "there was no intention or motivation...to be inappropriate...discriminatory against anyone," according to WAVY. But NBC12 reports that some school board members said they've been receiving similar emails from him since January 2012.

Bailey has admitted that the emails were inappropriate, but noted that he wasn't directly responsible for their content.

"The emails that they're talking about are some that I just sent along from somebody else," Bailey said, according to the Daily Press. "None of them I initiated, if you look at them. They were all initiated by somebody else."

Last week, Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors voted to keep Bailey in his position as vice chairman.

DeGroft hasn't heeded the calls to resign.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Isle of Wight Division Superintendent Katrise Perera had already resigned her post. She has announced plans to resign, but has not yet stepped down.

Larry Taylor

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