Local News Spotlight

Legislator apologizes for ‘YoMama’ email about first lady

Kansas legislator acknowledges forwarding email note mocking first lady’s name, hair style.

Updated: 2012-01-06T17:30:46Z

By BRAD COOPER

The Kansas City Star

Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal on Thursday apologized for an email that made fun of first lady Michelle Obama’s hair style and mockingly called her “Mrs. YoMama.”

The emails featured pictures comparing Mrs. Obama to the Grinch, a Dr. Seuss character, because of their similarly wind-blown hair.

“Sorry, just had to forward this latest holiday message,” O’Neal reportedly wrote in the email 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 from his personal computer the email that said, “I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Mrs. YoMama a wonderful, long Hawaii Christmas vacation — at our expense, of course.”

The first family spent the holidays in Hawaii before returning recently to Washington, D.C.

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 statements that he didn’t notice that in the text of the original email 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 a district that includes Hutchinson. “I forwarded it too quickly, missing the text included in the body of the email. To those I have offended, I am sorry. That was not at all my intent.”

The first lady’s office declined to comment on the matter.

But Joan Wagnon, the leader of the Kansas Democratic Party, called it “highly offensive, disrespectful and unacceptable.”

“Regardless of how he feels about President (Barack) Obama’s politics, Speaker O’Neal’s decision to promote language demeaning Mrs. Obama is simply wrong,” Wagnon said.

The leading Democrat in the Kansas House said the email should be a cautionary tale for elected leaders.

“Public officials have to be careful what they send out and forward on email,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence. “This is a reminder for all of us.”

Earlier Thursday, O’Neal had defended the email, contending that 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, a Shawnee Republican, was among the lawmakers who received the email last week. Donohoe said he didn’t get past the pictures of the first lady, recalling only how he was struck by her unusual hair style. He couldn’t remember the text.

The O’Neal incident comes just weeks after U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, apologized to the first lady for commenting on the size of her backside.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Sensenbrenner referred to Obama’s “big butt” while talking to church members at a Christmas bazaar.

According to the newspaper’s account, Sensenbrenner thought Obama was a hypocrite for undertaking a national initiative to fight obesity.

To reach Brad Cooper, call 816-234-7724 or send email to bcooper@kcstar.com.

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