U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull apparently did not know until recently that if you leave your name on questionable emails and then forward them to friends, they frequently get passed on to a wider audience and may come back to haunt you.
The chief judge for the District of Montana recently emailed a joke denigrating President Obama to several friends. They passed it to others, until it ended up in the hands of a reporter for the Great Falls Tribune, which published the email text.
The joke features an African-American boy named Barack who asks his mother why he is black and she is white, and her response indicates he's the product of a sexual encounter with a dog.
Judge Cebull forwarded the joke from his court email with the subject line, "A Mom's Memory", and included an intro saying he hoped the joke "touches your heart like it did mine".
Now Judge Cebull is apologizing to anyone who was offended, saying the email was "inappropriate" and "stupid"; but insisted to the Billings Gazette he was not personally a bigot. "There is no doubt (the email) is racist. It wasn't forwarded for that purpose. If anything, it was political".
Cebull says he's written other federal judges in Montana apologizing for his conduct and vows he won't ever again send an email from his office that's not business-related. He says while he isn't a supporter of President Obama, he has never shown prejudice to anyone in court.
Travis McAdam, head of the Montana Human Rights Network, says the email is "unbecoming" of a judge and more than political, noting the joke compares African Americans with animals, reports AFP.
Cebull was nominated to the federal court bench by President George W. Bush in 2001. He's been chief judge of the District of Montana since 2008, according to the Federal Judicial Center.