FRANKLIN, Ind.(AP)10/26/08 — A Republican county election clerk said Friday she has apologized to two employees for distributing copies of Internet blog posting referring to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as a “young, black Adolf Hitler.”
The employees, who had voted for Obama in Indiana’s Democratic primary, discovered the printouts at their desks after returning from Labor Day weekend, sheriff’s Deputy Doug Cox said in a police report made public this week. One of the workers complained, and surveillance video showed Johnson County Clerk Jill Jackson placing an item on one worker’s desk at 5:27 p.m. on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, Cox said.
“She admitted to being responsible for the letter, but only did it as a joke,” Cox said. Jackson told Cox she had intended to speak with the workers upon returning to work but forgot.
However, she told The Associated Press on Friday that she did not intend it as a joke but was merely passing along to the workers an item that already was circulating around in the office, much like a fundraising order form or an interesting newspaper article.
“It was no more than an Internet blog that was circulating around the office. There was no motive, no intent,” Jackson said, adding that she has apologized to both employees. “I never intended to offend anyone.”
The Daily Journal of Franklin first reported the item’s contents on its Web site Thursday.
Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner said Jackson did not violate any laws. One of the employees also filed a complaint with County Coordinator Kathleen Hash, who said Thursday she didn’t know the status or disposition of the complaint.
Officials from both parties called the incident unsettling.
“I don’t find anything funny about Adolf Hitler,” said Jonathan Swain, Indiana campaign spokesman for Obama.
Doug Lechner, Republican Party chairman in the county just south of Indianapolis, said the incident was unacceptable and taints Jackson’s ability to appear unbiased in administering this year’s election. County clerks are elected officials responsible for training poll workers, providing all voters an opportunity to cast their ballot without influence, and overseeing vote counts.
“She’s in a sensitive position and she has to give all the appearance of fairness,” Lechner said.
The item does not mention Obama by name but refers to events in his life that make clear Obama is the target.
The unsigned posting urges readers to send it to everyone they know.
“The U.S. citizens are just not ready to give up their country to this young, black ‘Adolf Hitler’ with a smile, poor direction and absolutely no experience!” it said.
Indiana this year is considered a battleground state, and Obama campaigned there Thursday, drawing an estimated 35,000 people to a rally in downtown Indianapolis.
Johnson County is heavily Republican, with nearly three-quarters of the votes cast in the 2004 presidential election going to President Bush.