Sorenson will ‘take responsibility’ for post of racial meme

Steve House

Delta County GOP Chairwoman Linda Sorenson will “take responsibility” for posting a racial meme on social media and improperly endorsing a Republican primary candidate in the U.S. Senate race, but it is not yet known if she will answer calls from within her own party to resign that position.

Sorenson met with local elected leaders and Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House in a behind-closed-doors meeting on Monday to discuss the situation, but House declined to say whether she would resign.

House said Sorenson, who could not be reached for comment, will “take responsibility” for her actions, adding that the two incidents will prompt the party to step up its training of party leaders on racial issues and basic party rules.

“(Sorenson) told the whole story,” he said in an interview. “Linda’s going to take responsibility.”

The Delta County Republican Central Committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. today at the Surface Creek Community Church in Austin to talk about the issue. The public is invited, according to the committee’s website.

Sorenson’s problems began earlier this month when she posted an overtly racist meme on her Facebook account depicting President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.

That story was first revealed by internet blogger Jason Salzman — whose recording of his interview with Sorenson is available on his blog, — and later by The Daily Sentinel before it was picked up by the national media.

“I really don’t care if people are offended by it,” she told Salzman before abruptly hanging up. “Unfriend me. Stop looking at me on Facebook.”

House said Sorenson admitted that her Facebook page, which she has since taken down, was not hacked, bringing into question why her deputy, committee Vice Chairman Vic Ullrey, told the Sentinel that it was.

“If an individual who is not technically savvy uses the work ‘hack’ and they don’t know what that means, you create an impression that someone’s trying to disclaim responsibility,” House said. “That’s not what happened. There was no hack. The issue was if you have public versus private settings on your Facebook page and you are not as young as my children, you can make mistakes. That’s part of what happened.”

The whole to-do started when Sorenson posted a black-and-white picture 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!”

While the racist meme prompted the regional chapter of the NAACP to call for Sorenson’s resignation, it was her public endorsements of U.S. Senate primary candidate Darryl Glenn that actually violated party rules. Under those rules, party officials are barred from publicly favoring one primary candidate over another, House said.

Still, her backing of Glenn shows that Sorenson isn’t a racist, but was being racially insensitive, House said. Glenn is black.

Last week, the regional chapter of the NAACP called for Sorenson to resign. At a press conference in Denver later today, the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance plans to do the same.

House said the situation has prompted a number of changes he plans to institute, not the least of which is to provide training on the difference between racism and being racially insensitive, adding that there is no room in the GOP for either.

He also said the state party will provide training on how to handle social media, including on how to make things private.

“Saying that you were wrong can come from two bases,” House said. “One is that you were willfully wrong, and the other is that you were ignorant and wrong. In this particular case it’s more ignorance than willful. So when you become racially insensitive, it needs to be used to educate.

“If you label somebody’s who’s a racist who’s not, then all you do is create an environment where you have discontent and more stress,” he said. “Republican or Democrat, decades of racism in this country and racial divide and an inability to educate and move ourselves forward is a real problem that we’ve got to solve. This situation gives us the ability to work with the NAACP and other groups out there and say, ‘All right, we’re not as racially sensitive about some things as you are, so let’s do some education.”


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