The chief defender of Marilyn Davenport, the Orange County Republican Party official tied to a racist email depicting President Barack Obama and his parents as chimpanzees, is urging the party's executive committee members to focus its attention not on Davenport but instead party chairman Scott Baugh for violating the group's bylaws.
"Marilyn has disciplined herself," wrote Tim Whitacre, a Davenport ally and member of the Republican Central Committee Orange County. "It is crystal clear [she] has not violated any part of our [bylaws] . . . There are no grounds for any disciplinary action against [her] in this matter."
Baugh and Michael J. Schroeder, former chairman of the California Republican Party, say that while the party may not be able to fire Davenport from her elected seat on the central committee, they want her to resign or face a public censure or reprimand. It's their position that the racist email harmed the party's image and setback voter recruitment efforts before an important presidential election.
But Davenport has refused to resign and the party's ethics committee, headed by Kermit Marsh, is expected to consider the matter in coming days.
According to Whitacre, the party does not have the right to discipline Davenport because she did not "intentionally cause embarrassment" to the local GOP, a necessarily precursor for hostile action.
Throughout the affair, Davenport has maintained that she emailed the Obama-as-chimp email because she thought it was hilarious "political satire"--not, according to her, as a racist statement--in the wake of New York City billionaire Donald Trump's questioning whether the president's birthplace was Africa.
Whitacre claims that Baugh is the one who intentionally harmed his own party. There is a belief in some party circles that Baugh and Schroeder worked together to smear Davenport. Baugh has claimed that he did not share the email with Schroeder, who has admitted that he leaked the image because he was disgusted by the overt racism.
That leak has increasingly become a point of contention on the central committee.
"Thanks to the actions of Mr. Baugh, this matter, which should have remained private and been handled with one phone call--has been thrust into the public limelight," Whitacre wrote. "I want to especially remind the new members of the executive committee this is not the first time Mr. Baugh has tried to use his position to play fast and lose with our bylaw to advance his own agenda or that of a privileged few individuals."
To underscore his position that Baugh should be disciplined, Whitacre added:
"[Baugh's] past actions have brought great embarrassment to our party's reputation that we still have not recovered from . . . I strongly encourage you to do the right thing on behalf of our party in the eyes of God."
In his own letter to the party's executive committee, Baugh said that it "is an absolute lie" that he leaked the email to the Weekly and reiterated that he had "no motivation" to bring the story my attention.
(For the record: I confronted Baugh only after Davenport told me that the party boss had already expressed to her his displeasure with the controversial Obama image. After I told him I was writing an article and expected a comment, Baugh then answered my questions. During my first interview with her, Davenport asked me if I agreed with Baugh that it was racist. I told her I did. She responded to my answer with a mixture of exasperation and annoyance.)
"I find it interesting that you care more about how Moxley got [the email] than the content of the email," Baugh says he told Davenport as the scandal grew. "[The email] was despicable and contrary to outreach that we are trying to do at the OCGOP."
Baugh told his executive committee that he had "no choice" but to answer my initial questions to ensure that it was clear that the email was not endorsed by the Republican Party.
And he's labeled Davenport's responses to the controversy as "conditional, diversionary, accusatory, minimizing and self-righteous."
"Marilyn continues to bring embarrassment to this party by trying to blame others for leaking her publicly distributed email," wrote Baugh. "Contrary to the image in the media that Marilyn is a helpless grandma who does not comprehend the use and scope of the Internet, [she] is a prolific user of the Internet."
Whitacre and Davenport are scheduled to appear on KABC-790 AM's Larry Elder at 9:30 a.m. today.
Read my new "Moxley Confidential" column on the incident HERE
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly