Obama Effigy Making Controversy

By: By JEFFREY McMURRAY, AP
By: By JEFFREY McMURRAY, AP

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A life-sized likeness of Barack Obama was found hanging from a tree with a noose around its neck Wednesday at the University of Kentucky, the second time in about a month such an effigy of the Democratic presidential nominee was reported on a college campus.

UK spokesman Carl Nathe said the effigy was found Wednesday morning in a high-traffic area between a classroom building and parking garage. Police immediately took it down but released no information about their investigation.

University President Lee Todd said he planned to apologize to the Obama family on behalf of the school and that he is "personally offended and deeply embarrassed by this disgusting episode."

Federal authorities have been notified, Todd said. He said the effigy violates the university's code of ethics and won't be tolerated.

"I am outraged because we work very hard, every day, to build bridges across the divides," Todd said. "Diversity and inclusion are among our most precious core values. Episodes like this serve only to erode our confidence in and respect for one another."

Mike Lynch, a faculty member who works in a building near where the effigy was found, said he saw it around 8:40 a.m. He described it as life-sized with a Barack Obama Halloween mask, a suit jacket and sweat pants.

"This, as far as I'm concerned, says nothing - absolutely nothing - representative of this university or this community," he said.

Obama's Kentucky campaign director, Kenya McGruder, had no immediate comment.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan declined to comment specifically on the situation, but said an effigy can suggest a threatening tone or be an attempt to intimidate. He said the agency is "very proactive about addressing these matters."

It's the second time an effigy has been found on a college campus recently. George Fox University in Oregon, a small Christian college, punished four students who confessed to hanging a likeness of Obama from a tree.

That effigy was found in September with a message taped to it - "Act Six reject." The message was targeted at participants of a scholarship program geared toward increasing the number of minority and low-income students and several Christian colleges, mostly in the Northwest.

In West Hollywood, Calif., authorities on Wednesday were looking into a Halloween display depicting a mannequin of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin hanging from a noose. The display also displayed her running mate, John McCain, surrounded by fake flames.

And in Clarksville, Ind., a man had hanged an inflatable doll made to look like Obama from a tree. He took it down Wednesday, and authorities said it didn't appear to violate any state laws.

At the University of Kentucky, Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center interim director Chester Grundy said he was outraged by the incident. A rally was held Wednesday night, where staff and student leaders condemned the act.

Gov. Steve Beshear called the incident "embarrassing" and "deeply offensive."

Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville chapter of the NAACP, said he is still trying to sort out his feelings "because there may be a double-meaning because Barack Obama is black, that he would be hung from a tree - that goes back to lynching."

John Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, called the action unacceptable even if it was a prank.

"It's astonishing that somebody would do that at this day and time," he said. "You would hope that our country has progressed further than that."
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Associated Press writers Joe Biesk and Roger Alford in Frankfort
and Malcolm C. Knox in Louisville contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-10-29-08 2126EDT


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