Belinda Blair, president and CEO of Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Kentucky, has been indefinitely suspended while the agency’s board of directors investigates a number of racially charged posts that were posted on her Facebook page.
The three posts, which were shared on Blair’s personal Facebook page, were memes about Black Lives Matter, violence against Blacks, and about slavery. For example, one meme showed what appears to be a Civil War battlefield with the caption: “Over 620,000 people died to free black slaves and still to this day not even 1 thank you and now we’re known as racists.”
Blair said in a Monday interview she did not post all of the posts, did not remember if she had posted the meme about Back Lives Matter. Later in the interview, Blair said her account had been hacked.
Blair did say she put up a post that appears to be of white children in a cotton field with the caption: “Poor children of every color picked cotton.” Blair said she did not consider the post offensive.
Board member and Owensboro City Commissioner Pam Smith-Wright said Monday the posts were “disturbing,” and the head of Owensboro chapter of the NAACP said the posts called into question whether Blair can “really identify with everyone?” and if people can “entrust that she is going to be fair and compassionate in how she relates to people.”
A statement released Tuesday evening said board members learned of the posts on Monday.
“Hospice does not condone these posts, and they do not reflect the mission or values of Hospice, its Board of Directors, or its employees,” the statement said. “For over 40 years, our mission has been to provide support and care for those in the final phase of a life-limiting illness so they can live as fully and comfortably as possible.
“Our services are provided without regard to race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability (mental or physical), national origin, diagnosis, ability to pay, or membership in any other protected category,” the statement said.
Board chairman Tom Maddox said he had met with Blair earlier in the day Monday, and was unaware there was an issue, before he was informed by text.
“I had no idea anything was going on,” Maddox said. “I had just met with her” to discuss replacing a retiring board member and to sign some documents. On Tuesday, the organization’s executive committee met and decided to suspend Blair, and the board approved the statement, Maddox said.
Maddox said he also talked with Blair.
“Our CEO is saying she did put one post on there, but the other posts that were made public, she said someone hacked into her account,” Maddox said.
“We asked her to provide us with some documentation, about how the posts were put on her account without her knowledge and erased without her knowledge, and explain why someone would do that,” Maddox said.
Regarding the post Blair said she did post, Maddox said Blair “rationalized that in her mind to trying to improve racial equality and racial relations, rather than the … opposite,” Maddox said. “Most people interpreted it a different way than she did.”
Maddox said the board hopes to have its investigation finished “in the next few days.”
Maddox said he discussed the posts with Blair.
“I think she realizes now if she posts (on social media) she is the face of hospice, she’s the CEO and it reflects on the organization,” Maddox said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse