Denver Health doctor under fire for racist Facebook comments
JoAnn Nietto was outraged to discover that a woman who posted racist comments on Facebook about first lady Michelle Obama is an anesthesiologist employed by Denver Health, a public hospital.
“It really outraged me to see that she works at Denver Health, which serves a huge minority population,” Nietto said Wednesday.
Dr. Michelle Herren, a pediatric anesthesiologist, was responding to praise of Obama, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law, that was posted by one of Nietto’s friends, who called the first lady eloquent.
“Doesn’t seem to be speaking too eloquently here, thank god we can’t hear her!” said the post, which included a picture of Obama, her face contorted in a scream. “Harvard??? That’s a place for ‘entitled’ folks said all the liberals!”
Another comment followed: “Monkey face and poor ebonic English!!! There! I feel better and am still not racist!!! Just calling it like it is!”
Herren couldn’t be reached for comment. Someone who answered a phone listed in Herren’s name said she wasn’t home and hung up.
Herren is also listed as a faculty member on the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s website.
Nietto informed Denver Health and the CU Board of Regents about the post.
Denver Health is researching legal options to discipline Herren, said Kelli Christensen, hospital spokeswoman. Later Denver Health issued the following statement: “Until further notice, Michelle Herren, MD, will not be seeing patients or providing anesthesia services at Denver Health.”
The hospital previously had said: “We are disgusted by the personal comments made by Dr. Herren and they are an insult to the mission and values of Denver Health, and to our staff and patients.
“While the leadership of Denver Health is appalled by these remarks, as a public entity we are constrained by both state and federal law, including the First Amendment right of free speech, to terminate any employee for their off-duty comments, regardless of how offensive their comments may be.”
Herren holds a nonpaid faculty appointment at the CU School of Medicine and a medical staff appointment at Children’s Hospital.
Herren is paid $363,000 a year, according to Denver Health.