State lawmakers react to email forwarded by colleague, perceived as racist

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Black lawmakers were angered Wednesday after a white Alabama lawmaker forwarded an email that was perceived as racist..

That morning Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) forwarded an email to colleagues at the state house that alluded to an animal experiment that included four caged monkeys, a banana, a ladder and the action of hosing them down with cold water when one of them tried to climb the ladder for the banana, then replacing the monkeys one at a time. Greer added no other comment to the email other than simply forwarding it.

The experiment ended with the monkeys fighting each other, but not knowing why, other than "that is the way it was always done."


The end of the email read: "This is how today's House and Senate operates, and why from time to time, ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME!"

Comments were made by several lawmakers that took offense to the email. Our news partners at say that African-American legislators gathered at the capital to publicly discuss the email. The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) called it "insulting" and "unacceptable."

Later on Wednesday, Greer released this statement about the email:

“The case study in the email that I forwarded has existed for decades, and a simple Internet search shows that the story is based upon actual psychological experiments that were conducted by in the 1920s.  The body of the email has been reprinted - word for word - in several magazines, textbooks, and journals, such as 'Psychology Today,' and it even has its own Wikipedia page.

A constituent sent me the email, which has been distributed nationally and compares the experiment to today’s political climate in the U.S. Congress, not the Alabama Legislature.  The last paragraph of the email implies that ALL incumbents, whether Republican or Democrat, should be replaced.

Without comment or edits on my part, I forwarded the email to various members who might have an interest, and, as a result, it has been taken out of context and given a meaning that was not intended for pure political purposes.  For that, I apologize to my colleagues.”

He also included links referencing the study appearing in textbooks, journals, magazines, and other media outlets.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels sent his own statement shortly after, saying in part, "I am surprised and disappointed by the derogatory email that has been circulated... the email speaks for itself... This episode and the hollow apology issued by Rep. Greer makes clear the legislature is in dire need of more decorum and respect... We cannot have a stronger Alabama if its representatives cannot find a way to disagree with dignity."