Mercatus Communications’ contract with the Tennessee Hospitality Association and the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association has been terminated in the fallout from a racist email forwarded by principal Walt Baker.
Together, the state and local hospitality associations jointly expressed disagreement with the inappropriate email that compared First Lady Michelle Obama to a chimpanzee.
“Walt’s email reflects a deep misunderstanding of the nature of hospitality and our role as an association said Bill Mish, president of the board of the Tennessee Hospitality Association. “His email was sent in his personal capacity and not in his connection with the hospitality associations.”
Both groups, that together represent 280 hotels with 40,000 rooms across the state, 650 restaurants, have been busy with damage control since word of the email spread Friday.
The hospitality industry is the second-largest employer in the state and locally, employing tens of thousands of individuals.
“Diversity has always been a high priority in the hospitality industry,” said Pete Weien, president of the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association. “The email sent by Mr. Baker does not reflect the positive initiatives we have undertaken as an industry and organization, and therefore we are terminating our relationship with Mercatus and Walt Baker.”
American Hotel and Lodging Association board member Tom Negri stated: “The email sent by Mr. Baker is unacceptable and upsetting, both personally and professionally. It is not who we are as a hospitality organization and it fails to reflect that our industry is one of the most diverse industries in the state of Tennessee and, in fact, our country.”