Tennessee Hospitality Association CEO Walt Baker

*A Tennessee tourism executive is feeling the wrath after forwarding an e-mail that likened Michelle Obama to a chimpanzee.

Tennessee Hospitality Association CEO Walt Baker has apologized to “anyone who is offended by this action” and “the people of Tennessee, and to anybody that has either seen or been affected by this email.”

The controversial e-mail, sent to Spyridon, Mayor Karl Dean’s legislative liaison, public relations executives and members of the Nashville media, compared Obama to Cheeta, the chimp sidekick in Tarzan movies.

It opened with a quote attributed to comedian Larry the Cable Guy: “I don’t care who you are, this is funny…” and ended with a photo of Mrs. Obama, caught in an awkward moment with her lips pursed, and one of a chimpanzee.

Baker also apologized in an e-mail to Nashville Metro Council members Saturday saying the message was not intended to be malicious but meant as “political humor.”

The e-mail has already cost Baker’s a deal with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, reports the Tennessean. On Saturday, the venue said it would drop its contract with the marketing firm.

“The attitudes expressed in the e-mail are both appalling and unacceptable,” the head of the NCVB told the Tennesseean, and the mayor called the message “extremely offensive.”

Complicating the marketing expert’s PR fiasco is his initial reaction: “It was done in the spirit of having some fun with some close friends,” he told Nashville Scene.