Snohomish County GOP pulls "$3 bills" smearing Obama from fair booth
The head of the Snohomish County Republican Party apologized Tuesday after the organization's booth at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The head of the Snohomish County Republican Party apologized Tuesday after the organization's booth at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe sold "$3 bills" depicting Barack Obama wearing Arab headgear and featuring a camel.
Geri Modrell, the Snohomish County Republican chairwoman, said a volunteer had brought the bills to the fair thinking they were funny.
"I don't think it's funny," said Modrell, who said she ordered the bills removed as soon as she learned about them. "They were offensive. The volunteers are being told very clearly they must not do these sorts of things."
The $3 bills, which are sold on a conservative Web site, feature signatures from "Teddy Kennedy" as chief socialism adviser and Al Sharpton as new spiritual adviser. Obama's face, in the traditional Arab headgear, is pictured above the words "Da man."
The Arab headgear and the camel on the bill are clearly references to the false rumor spread by some Obama critics that he is a Muslim. Obama, who is expected to be officially nominated as the Democratic Party's candidate for president this week in Denver, identifies himself as a Christian. He attended Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for many years. The rumors about his religion have been fueled by time he spent as a child in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country.
The bills offended some passers-by at the fair, including Ronnie Thibault, a Monroe woman who said Republicans at the booth threatened to call security on her after she complained.
"My first reaction was, 'Are you kidding me? Really?' " said Thibault. "Even if a person is a Muslim, so what, but he [Obama] is not."
Thibault, who describes herself as a "hard-core Democrat," said she would have been just as offended if the Democratic booth at the fair had sold offensive depictions of Republican John McCain, who is expected to be nominated as the GOP presidential candidate next week in St. Paul, Minn.
Susan Ronken, a volunteer at the nearby Democratic Party booth at the fair, also saw the bills, which were present at the booth for at least two days this week.
"It was an absolute hate crime," said Ronken, who lives in Stanwood.
Patrick Bell, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said the party does not condone any such messages about Obama's religion.
After Thibault complained to Republican Party officials, Modrell, the Snohomish County GOP chairwoman, said she immediately called her volunteers at the fairgrounds to ensure that the $3 bills were removed. She later went to the fairgrounds to make sure no other offensive materials were present.
"This was not an official act of the party," said Modrell. "I apologize for any misunderstanding."
Modrell said she hopes the presidential campaign will avoid illegitimate personal attacks — such as insinuations about Obama's religion or McCain's age.
Josh Field, Washington communications director for the Obama campaign, said Republicans are resorting to personal attacks to distract from the failures of the past eight years of the Bush White House.
"Instead of distractions like this, our campaign is focused on the important issues that face our nation," Field said.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.