HELENA — The chairwoman of Montana’s Yellowstone County Republican committee denied Monday that she posted a racist photo mocking President Barack Obama and said she won’t step down, despite receiving dozens of calls for her resignation.
The photo posted last week by a Montana blogger shows an image purportedly from Jennifer Olsen’s Facebook page of a box propped up by a stick with a watermelon underneath. The caption says “BREAKING NEWS: The Secret Service just uncovered a plot to kidnap the president.”
Olsen is the head of the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee, which runs the GOP in Montana’s largest county and includes Billings, the state’s most populous city.
The photo has gone viral on the Internet, becoming one of the top five stories on the popular social media website Reddit and causing the crash of a website with the photo.
Olsen told The Associated Press she has never made a racist joke or statement against the president and the Facebook page screenshot is a fake.
“The lady who wrote the blog and I were friends, then we had a falling out,” Olsen said. “She just makes up a bunch of things and writes them down and her followers believe them, but none of them are true,” Olsen said.
Asked why blogger Nicole French would make up such an allegation, Olsen responded, “I guess because we’ve been successful in getting Republicans elected.”
Nobody answered at a phone number listed for French, who says on her blog that she is also a Republican, and she did not immediately respond to an email. But French wrote on her blog, Montanafesto, that she did not alter or fabricate the screenshot and that she is disappointed that Olsen continues to lie about her actions.
“It is my position that the racist post was Jennifer Olsen’s and that the person who provided it to me as well as the names and photos of his/her friends are irrelevant to the story,” French wrote.
Olsen said she has received more than two dozen calls and emails telling her she should resign her position with the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee, but also “hundreds” of messages of support.
She said she also has received two calls and three emails that contain threats of violence, but declined to read them.
Olsen said she won’t heed calls for her resignation and she has the support of other Yellowstone County committee members.
“Everybody on the board supports me and nobody is planning to ask me to step down. We’ll get through this and move on and keep electing Republicans to Yellowstone County offices,” she said.
The committee released a statement to the Billings Gazette that said asking Olsen to step down would be premature unnecessary, and unwarranted.
The allegations against Olsen echo those against another prominent Billings resident, Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opened an investigation against Cebull for forwarding an email that included a racist joke that targeted Obama and his mother. Cebull announced last year that he will resign as the chief judge for the Montana federal courts and take senior status in March.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.