Alabama legislator says monkeys email was taken out of context

Updated: May. 17, 2017 at 3:43 PM CDT
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Rep. Lynn Greer (Source: Alabama Legislature)
Rep. Lynn Greer (Source: Alabama Legislature)
The email fowarded by Rep. Greer. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The email fowarded by Rep. Greer. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Republican Alabama legislator is drawing criticism from members across the aisle after an email was circulated Wednesday in the House referencing monkeys, a term considered by many to be a racist slur against African Americans.

The email, which members of the House Black Caucus said was circulated by Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Limestone County, is titled "Subject: POLITICS Psychology From one of my constituents. Very heartwarming."

Greer confirmed that he forwarded the email and released a statement following uproar from House Democrats. That statement reads:

"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."

The email begins:

"You start with a cage containing four monkeys, and inside the cage you hang a banana on a string, and then you place a set of stairs under the banana." The letter ends, "This is why from time to time all the monkeys need to be replaced at the same time."

It concludes:

"This is how today's House and Senate operates, and this is why from time to time, ALL the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME."

"The Monkey Experiment" story has been retold for years. In a 2012 piece written by Dr. Dario Maestripieri for Psychology Today, however, Maestripieri says the experiment described in the story never happened.

Black legislators called a news conference Wednesday afternoon to condemn the email. Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, read from the piece as nearly 20 other legislators stood beside him.

Knight called it one of the most offensive messages he's ever seen sent from one lawmaker to others and added that "we are not going to take this and be disrespected."

Rep. Merika Coleman, D- Birmingham, said she believes the letter's "monkeys" are a reference to black legislators.

Democrats have slowed much of the legislature's business in recent days of the waning session as a protest of GOP legislation after a federal judge ordered legislative districts be redrawn.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.