Violent anti-Barack Obama rhetoric - such as "Waterboard Barack Obama" - and images linking the Democratic presidential candidate to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden appeared this week on the official Web site of the Sacramento County Republican Party, the latest in a series of increasingly graphic attacks nationwide on the Illinois senator that seek to cast him as a terrorist sympathizer.
California Republican Party officials asked Sacramento party leaders to remove the offensive material, including an image of Obama in a turban next to bin Laden near the caption: "The difference between Osama and Obama is just a little B.S." By Wednesday, the offensive material had been removed from the site.
Now the lead story on the site is headlined: "This Election is Really a Referendum on the Stupidity of the American Voters." The accompanying essay, largely an anti-mainstream-media invective, wonders: "Imagine how much garbage there must be on the Marxist messiah, Barack Obama, that even his lovers, the mainstream press, cannot hide it all."
While that was going on, a 50-year-old, independent San Bernardino County Republican women's group, unaffiliated with the state party, published a racially insensitive image of Obama in its newsletter.
California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas, who asked the Sacramento County GOP chairman to remove the offensive material, said "We disavow these types of things. They have no place in a presidential campaign.
"I also noted to them that this is a complete distraction from what we're trying to do, and that's elect John McCain and Sarah Palin as the next president and vice president of the United States," Barajas said. "As a person of color, I don't see how this furthers the dialogue on how to get the nation out of the economic problems we're in. This is not what the Republican Party in California is about."
"What it tells me is that the Republicans are struggling," said California Democratic Party spokesman Roger Salazar. "They haven't been able to connect with voters on the economy or other issues that matter, so they do stuff like this. It's desperation."
A spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the governor thinks the material is "totally inappropriate. It is something that the governor does not condone," said his spokeswoman, Julie Soderlund.
In a statement Wednesday, Sacramento County GOP Chairman Craig MacGlashan, an attorney, said, "Let's face it, I screwed up.
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"When asked about the site by a reporter, my first thought was not to beat up on this volunteer, when I should have thought first about doing the right thing - taking it down and condemning the material," said MacGlashan. "At first, I did not realize how offensive the material was, and in the rush to move past it, I didn't take it seriously enough."
The controversy comes after several incidents involving anti-Obama rhetoric at GOP rallies held by Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain or his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Many of the comments began after Palin said earlier this month that Obama was "palling around" with Bill Ayers, a 1960s radical who is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Independent fact-checking organizations have found the connection between Obama and Ayers to be minimal.
There also have been allegations that people at GOP rallies have yelled "terrorist" or "kill him" in response to comments about Obama.
In San Bernardino County, a Republican women's organization sent a monthly newsletter to its members that carried a racially insensitive depiction of Obama. "Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would he be on? Food Stamps, what else!" read the caption above an "Obama Bucks" bill cartoon image in the latest edition of the Chaffey Community Republican Women Federated newsletter. The independent community organization is not a part of the state Republican Party, and its newsletter is distributed to a few thousand members in the county.
Next to the senator's image was a bucket of fried chicken, a slab of ribs, a slice of watermelon and a pitcher of Kool-Aid. Diane Fedele, the organization's president, took responsibility for the image and apologized "if it offended anyone."
She meant it "to represent food, nothing else. I'm not a racist. I'm a German Jew whose (grandparents) had to leave Germany. Why would I be racist? But I was angry and upset about what (Obama) is going to do to this country," Fedele said. "He's going to return it to the welfare state.
"And why aren't you asking me about the porno movie some people are making about Sarah Palin," Fedele said, referring to a pornographic film in production that allegedly includes doppelgangers for Palin. "That's offensive, too, just in a different light."