Delta County GOP will conduct probe of offensive meme
Delta County Republican Party leaders Tuesday night tasked their internal accountability committee to look into a social media gaffe by party Chairwoman Linda Sorenson, who admitted at the meeting that while using her public Facebook account she “liked” an internet meme with overt racial overtones but didn’t address calls for her resignation.
Public scrutiny of Sorenson began earlier this month after she posted a meme of former Republican President Ronald Reagan bottle-feeding a chimpanzee named Bonzo from the 1951 movie, “Bedtime for Bonzo.” Above and below the picture were the words: “I’ll be damned ... Reagan used to babysit Obama!”
Several party members — including Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee and Delta County Coroner Kevin Lucy — said at the Tuesday meeting of the Delta County Republican Central Committee that they thought an internal investigation into whether Sorenson acted wrongly was in order.
“People are starting to look at Delta County in a different way, and given our economic situation, that’s the last thing we need to have happen,” Lucy said. “Coming out of this on top of the game regardless of what these other people are trying to say — that’s the ultimate goal, I think.”
McKee said the question of how the meme came to be shared should be answered “once and for all.” While reports have circulated that Sorenson posted the meme, she is claiming that “someone I don’t know tagged me” in the post and that she “liked” it — which led to its appearance on her public timeline. She has yet to clarify her story.
“It was hacked,” she said Tuesday night at the meeting, before adding: “I liked it, and then it was there.”
Committee members voted that the accountability committee finish their investigation by the end of June.
When attendees at the party meeting asked Sorenson to elaborate on what happened, she left the room after becoming visibly emotional after saying what she’s being accused of is “threatening, it’s vile, it’s violent.”
Committee Vice Chairman Vic Ullrey — who initially told The Daily Sentinel that Sorenson’s Facebook was “hacked” before she admitted to “liking” the post — said he has seen major backlash over the incident.
“I have never seen such vile, bitter, vicious, ugly, hateful comments,” Ullrey said. “Linda made an error of judgment, and I’m not going to crucify her for that. … I made an error in judgment by talking to the (Daily Sentinel).”
McKee said he has also received calls about the incident.
“I’m not getting the nasty hate calls,” McKee said. “I’m getting calls from Republicans that are concerned about our reputation. … They’re not accusing, they’re just concerned.”
Sorenson issued a press release Tuesday where she apologized for “being insensitive and not thinking of others in the heat of the moment.” She attributed the situation to “gotcha” journalism from the left.
“When confronted on the spot by a liberal blogger, I was busy and didn’t realize the game that was being played — the ‘gotcha’ game,” the release said.
She also said in the release she was “tagged” in a Facebook post that she later liked, and called it bad judgment. At Tuesday’s meeting she also told fellow Republicans she has been “trying to ask myself why God has put me in this position.”
At the meeting, Sorenson didn’t address calls for her resignation from outside groups including the NAACP and Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance. She refused to answer follow-up questions after the meeting, and again became visibly emotional when approached.
Sorenson also didn’t address during the meeting recent concerns that she improperly endorsed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn, which violates GOP rules. She did, however, talk about his qualities as a public speaker while telling attendees that Glenn is slated to appear as a keynote speaker at an upcoming county GOP event. She also mentioned the fact that Glenn is black.
Attendees of the meeting — which was open to the public — varied in their reactions to Sorenson’s actions, with some calling for a more sincere apology or asking for more of an explanation.
Delta County resident Ken Richards said he has a “family that is diverse,” although he didn’t elaborate specifically how.
“What’s the definition of an apology without an apology?” he said. “Tonight was a classic example. … I think you actually need an apology. A true apology. The statement (from Sorenson) I read was not an apology.”
Some attendees applauded Richards’ comments.
County commission candidate Roger Bentley asked members of the executive committee for minutes from a closed-door meeting they reportedly held after the Facebook incident came to light. Leaders said there were no minutes of the meeting.
“We need to hear that,” Bentley said, adding that minutes should be produced to help the county party stand by its leaders.
Others said Sorenson was being “crucified” by political correctness run amok.
“You can have a committee if you want to, but you’re not going to come out on top of this, because you have to think about, why do they do this in the first place?” one woman said, of the people scrutinizing Sorenson and her Facebook activity. “They do it because they’re after your First Amendment rights and freedom of speech, and they have already won. … If you’re not politically correct, they’re going to come after you.”
The woman refused to give her name.
The county party might also consider shutting down its Facebook page in favor of a private Facebook group, although that decision is pending the results of the internal investigation.