See the Racist Email About Obama Sent by a Federal Judge


The Great Falls Tribune reported Wednesday that Richard Cebull, a George W. Bush-appointed federal judge in Montana, sent a racist joke about President Barack Obama from his official email account. Even as far as racist jokes go, the dig is mightily unclever—the punchline contains an implied comparison between black people and dogs. 

Josh Glasstetter at Right Wing Watch has obtained an image of the email, which he writes has been going around the Internet around for months. It resembles a cheesy greeting card:

The joke also implies that instead of being married to Barack Obama Sr., Obama’s mother Ann Dunham merely got pregnant at a party at which she was drunk, because how else could a white woman end up sleeping with a black man? So it manages to be profoundly racist and sexist at the same time.

Judge Cebull apologized and said he understood the joke was racist. What’s interesting was his explanation for sending it around anyway:

“The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan,” Cebull said. “I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”

Cebull doesn’t seem to understand there’s no way to deploy racism exclusively against President Obama. Racist animus cannot be focused on a single person. It is, by definition, a collective judgement on an entire people.

Perhaps Cebull’s cognitive dissonance explains the appeal of certain racialist explanations for Obama’s behavior—”Kenyan anti-colonialism” and so forth—and why some conservatives don’t seem to understand why so many black people react to such language as though they’re being personally targeted. They are, even if those doing the targeting don’t seem to realize it.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate