From Matt Mershon with our content partner, KATV Ch. 7:
Leslie Rutledge, Republican candidate for Attorney General, responded to calls for her to apologize, after what some are calling “an overtly racist” e-mail forwarded by her seven years ago, surfaced last week. The e-mail, written in a perceived race driven dialect, had members of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus calling it demeaning.
The e-mail in question was originally sent by Judith Gardner, a Department of Human Services employee and self-described Democrat. The correspondence was then forwarded to Rutledge, who at the time was an attorney with DHS.
The body of the e-mail was comprised of a story in which a woman came into DHS seeking help for her mentally disabled son and his child who she believed he could no longer care for properly. The e-mail that surfaced on the blog, The Blue Hog Report, was written in what blogger Matt Campbell calls, “an overtly racist patois.”
An excerpt from the e-mail:
“De problem be wit his baby momma. Actually it turn out he not be de daddy (I saw the paternity test results) but he done been payin’ chile suppote fo 5 year cuz Jesus done sent dat baby and it doan make no diffence who be de daddy iffn Jesus want him to be de daddy…”
Although Rutledge did not pen the actual e-mail, the e-mail was forwarded on by her to four other co-workers at DHS.
“I am offended by the actions of both and so is the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus,” said Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock).
The Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference on Monday to address the e-mail. Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) said the e-mail shouldn’t just offend black people, but the white community too. She said Rutledge and Gardner marginalize everyday Arkansans seeking help with the e-mail and forwarding of the e-mail.
“I don’t think anyone in this state wants this kind of behavior on the part of a person who vies to be the attorney general,” said Elliott.
Rutledge was in northwest Arkansas campaigning earlier this week. In an interview with KHBS/KHOG-TV 40/29, she was asked about the e-mail by a reporter who asked if Rutledge didn’t see the racial undertones in the e-mail.
“No, absolutely not,” said Rutledge in response. “As a matter of fact, I’ve even had black individuals come up to me and say, ‘Leslie, I read that and it sounds like country talk to me.’”
In a written statement, Rutledge told KATV:
“This press conference today continues the desperate attacks by donors to my opponent as they attempt to attribute words written by Democrat Judith Gardner to me. Seven years ago I forwarded, without comment, this story to four fellow attorneys and my assistant at DHS because the domestic violence was similar to the sort of cases we dealt with every day in our efforts to protect Arkansas children. I find and found no humor in the email and any attempt to suggest otherwise is without merit. Any questions about the content of the email should be directed to the author. Supporters of my opponent will stop at nothing to win this race and to date have attempted to paint me as, among other things, secretly pro-choice, not eligible to vote in Arkansas and now a racist. The AP has already retracted one earlier story and this is more of the same from my opponents. I would expect these kind of silly attacks to continue. I have a broad base of supporter among all Arkansans and as Attorney General will continue to work to protect the most vulnerable in our society and stand up for the rights of all Arkansans.”
Watch a video report and read comments on the story at this link from our content partner, KATV Ch. 7.