Federal judge Richard Cebull apologizes for racist Obama email (UPDATE)


A federal judge in Montana is apologizing for forwarding an email containing a racist joke directed at President Barack Obama.

Chief US District Judge Richard Cebull sent the email Feb. 20 from his courthouse chambers, and 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,” according to the Great Falls Tribune.

The forwarded portion of the email contained a joke that compared African-Americans to animals, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a new development, Cebull said Thursday he planned to apologize to Obama himself and ask for an appellate court to review the matter, The Associated Press reported.

Cebull told the Billings Gazette he passed along the joke because it was “anti-Obama,” not because he is a racist.

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“There’s no doubt it’s racist,” the judge told the Gazette. “It wasn’t forwarded for that purpose. If anything, it was political.”

Cebull also offered an apology, telling the Great Falls Tribune he could “understand why people would be offended.”

Critics have complained that the email contained racist rhetoric unbecoming 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 positions on issues,” Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, told the Tribune.

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Cebull was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001 and has been the chief judge since 2008. 

Federal judges are given life-time appointments, and can only be removed through congressional impeachment, according to Politico.

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