Marilyn Davenport, a tea party activist and member of the Republican Party of Orange County, released a statement apologizing, but did not address her future on the central committee.
"I humbly apologize and ask for your forgiveness of my unwise behavior," the statement said. "I say unwise because at the time I received and forwarded the email, I didn't stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive."
In the statement, Davenport also quoted the Bible and said she was "an imperfect Christian" who tried to "live a Christ-like honoring life."
"I would never do anything to intentionally harm or berate others regardless of ethnicity," she said. "I will not repeat this error."
The controversial photo shows the president's face superimposed over the head of a baby chimp in a chimp family photo. The caption beneath the picture read, "Now you know why -- No birth certificate!"
Davenport said she found the picture amusing because of the questions surrounding the president's origin of birth.
"It was a private email from her private house to some private friends," said Tim Whitacre, a member of the central committee. "I am not defending the email. No one is defending the content of the email. What I am defending, I know this lady's mindset and her heart. I know there's nothing in her history that would say racist."
Whitacre said it was sent to several of her fellow elected members as well as a dozen friends.
Davenport did not show up to the Orange County Republican Central Committee on Monday night.
Her friends said she did not show up because she feared for her safety after receiving threats.
Civil rights activists and the Orange County GOP chairman have asked Davenport to step down.
"We must send the message that racism will not be tolerated. Racism will be condemned anytime by anybody," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.
However, state law says she cannot be forced to resign.
In an exclusive Eyewitness News poll, SurveyUSA asked Southern Californians familiar with the email whether they found it offensive. Seventy percent said yes, 27 percent said no.
City News Service contributed to this report.