The email was forwarded from Judge Richard Cebull's official court email address. Cebull was appointed by former President George W. Bush, reported The Great Falls Tribune. He received his commission in 2001 and has served as chief judge for the District of Montana since 2008.
Judge Richard Cebull forwarded the email to six old buddies and to his personal email account on Feb. 20 at 3:42 p.m. The subject read A MOM'S MEMORY.
Cebull, according to The Great Fall Tribune, wrote, Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.
A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?' the joke began. His mother replied, 'Don't even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'
The email eventually landed in the hands of a Great Falls Tribune reporter.
Judge Cebull acknowledged that the context of the joke email was racially-charged, but insisted that he himself is not a racist. I have never considered myself that way, Cebull said. All I can emphasize is I've treated people in my courtroom all these years fairly. I don't think I've ever demonstrated racism. Nobody has ever even implied it.
He said that the email was supposed to be private. This is a private thing that was, to say the least, very poor judgment on my part, Cebull said. I did not forward it because of the racist nature of it. Although it is racist, I'm not that way, never have been.
It was not intended by me in any way to become public, he added. I apologize to anybody who is offended by it, and I can obviously understand why people would be offended.
The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan, he said. I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. I sent it out because it's anti-Obama.
However, though Judge Cebull brushed it off as a mere joke and not racist sludge, others viewed it differently.
Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, told The Great Falls Tribune that the forwarding of such a racially-charged joke was far beneath what is expected of a federal judge.
It's one thing if the judge is not a fan of President Barack Obama, but you would think someone in his position would articulate that in a way that criticizes his policy decisions or his position on issues, he said. We have a hard time believing that a legitimate criticism of the president involves distributing a joke that basically compares African Americans with animals.