Dr. Michelle Herren to resign from Denver Health after calling Michelle Obama an “ebonic” speaker and a “monkey face”

“As of December 2, Michelle Herren, MD, and Denver Health have mutually agreed that Dr. Herren will voluntarily resign her employment.”

Denver Health on Bannock in Lincoln Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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From Denver Health: “As of December 2, Michelle Herren, MD, and Denver Health have mutually agreed that Dr. Herren will voluntarily resign her employment from Denver Health after a ten year career of providing care to its patients.”

Herren was a pediatric anesthesiologist for the hospital and reportedly made a $363,000 salary. She became the subject of mass criticism as her derogatory Facebook comments about Michelle Obama were shared and republished.

Denver Health still has not said whether her actions were a fireable offense.

Denver Health on Bannock in Lincoln Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver health; hospital; healthcare; denver; denverite; kevinjbeaty; colorado;
Denver Health. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The doctor had posted a photo of Obama to Facebook in which the First Lady seemed to be saying something with some volume.

“Doesn’t seem to be speaking too eloquently here, thank god we can’t hear her!” the caption read, according to The Denver Post and ABC7. “Harvard??? That’s a place for ‘entitled’ folks said all the liberals!”

Later, Herren reportedly added this comment: “Monkey face and poor ebonic English!!! There! I feel better and am still not racist!!! Just calling it like it is!”

Herren, whose profession is among the most educated in the medical field, said she didn’t know that “monkey” is one of the slurs most commonly used to insult and degrade black people around the world. She apparently didn’t explain why she used it in a sentence about how Michelle Obama, who herself has degrees from Princeton and Harvard, is a “poor ebonic” speaker.

The demands for Herren’s job came fast and loud, then faster and louder, over the four days since ABC7 first published the story.

The hospital’s leadership first claimed it could do nothing about what its staff said outside the office. However, as plenty of people pointed out, it’s hard for a parent of color to trust a doctor who apparently sees a racist caricature when she looks at Michelle Obama.

The CU School of Medicine already terminated Herren from her unpaid teaching post yesterday. In a letter obtained by the Denver Post, its dean questioned whether Herren could “effectively teach” a diverse group.

We apparently don’t get to know if Denver Health thinks it should continue to employ someone who makes comments like Herren’s. The hospital had indefinitely suspended her from seeing patients, and perhaps a threat of termination pushed her to voluntarily resign — but it’s not saying much more.

Denver Health said in its press release that it’s not saying anything more. “No further comment or interviews will be given on this topic,” the press release noted.

I asked spokeswoman Kelli Christensen whether the hospital has changed the policy it first described in response to this situation: Is it a fireable offense or not to call Michelle Obama an ebonic-speaking monkey?

The hospital earlier said it was “reaching out” to staff and patients to reinforce its core values and that it strongly rejected Herren’s views. I asked whether Denver Health would do anything else in response, such as additional training for staff.

Christensen declined further comment.

 

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.