A Halloween-themed graphic featuring a zombie President Barack Obama with a bullet hole in his forehead provoked widespread outrage and the attention of the Secret Service Monday after a local Republican committee in Virginia used it to scare up interest in Halloween parade political activities.
The montage, a banner on a mass email to Loudoun Republicans, mingles seasonal images including a jack-o-lantern, a disfigured U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and a throng of flesh-hungry zombie Obama supporters.
The posterized image of a rotting, undead Obama with a bleeding, large-caliber hole an inch above his right eye prompted Democrats to cry foul and Virginia's Republican governor to denounce it as "shameful and offensive."
"This is a disgusting and violent portrayal of the president of the United States," said Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, through spokesman J. Tucker Martin, called on the Loudoun GOP to "apologize for their actions, and to immediately ensure that such imagery is never used again."
Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins said such an image "has no place in our politics. Ever."
Loudoun County GOP chairman Mark Sell said in an email response to The Associated Press that the graphic was "a light-hearted attempt to inject satire humor into the Halloween holiday."
"Apparently, some individuals have interpreted an image of Barack Obama that appeared within the email as intending to portray the President as a victim of a violent crime," Sell wrote. "Nothing could be further from the truth, and we deeply and sincerely apologize to the President and anyone who viewed the image if that was the impression that was left."
There was no reply from Sell to a follow-up email seeking an alternative explanation for the nickel-sized hole in Obama's forehead.
The image was first reported in a post Monday on the conservative northern Virginia blog, Too Conservative. The post's author, identified as a "Loudoun Insider," said he's no Obama fan, "but putting up a photo of him as a zombie with a bullet hole in his head?"
"Someone should send this to the US Secret Service," the blog post concluded. The Secret Service is in charge of the president's security.
"We are aware of the situation," said George Ogilvie, a Secret Service spokesman in Washington.
The image the Loudoun GOP altered is the red, white and blue image of a determined-looking Obama gazing upward that, emblazoned with the caption "HOPE," became a ubiquitous Obama poster during his 2008 campaign.
It was created from a copyrighted AP photo taken in 2006 when Obama was a U.S. senator appearing at the National Press Club in Washington. The AP sued over the unlicensed, uncredited and uncompensated use of its photo. The litigation was settled earlier this year.