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'Racist' US cartoon causes stir

New York State Senator Eric Adams stands in front of the New York Post building holding a cartoon that ran in the newspaper on Wednesday
The cartoon was decried by politicians including NY state Senator Eric Adams

A cartoon in the New York Post newspaper has triggered accusations that it is a racist depiction of President Barack Obama.

Commentators denounced the cartoon, while campaigner Rev Al Sharpton vowed to picket the newspaper's headquarters.

Cartoonist Sean Delonas drew police shooting dead a chimp, while remarking "they'll have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill".

The paper has defended the cartoon as a "parody of a current news event".

On Tuesday President Obama signed into law a massive, $787bn (548bn) economic stimulus package.

The plan failed to achieve Republican backing and came after weeks of political wrangling.

'Racist drivel'

Wednesday's cartoon referred to a gruesome incident on Monday, when a pet chimp was shot in Stamford, Connecticut, after a serious and disfiguring attack on a friend of its owner.

The New York Post denied the cartoon chimp represented President Obama. The cartoon "is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimp in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy," said editor-in-chief Col Allen.

That was rejected by Andrew Rojecki, co-author of the book The Black Image in the White Mind.

"The cops are saying, 'Someone's going to have to write the next stimulus bill.' Well, who wrote the last stimulus bill? It's Obama and the Democratic Party, but really it's associated with one person - and that's Obama," Mr Rojecki told the Chicago Tribune.

"It's a crude joke... It's pretty transparent to me."

"How could The Post let this cartoon pass as satire?" asked Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, in a statement.

"To compare the nation's first African-American commander-in-chief to a dead chimpanzee is nothing short of racist drivel."

She joined politicians in demanding an explanation from the publishers of the New York Post, a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's international media conglomerate, News Corp.

There was also a furious public response. Blog posts on the topic attracted hundreds of angry comments, while complainants reportedly jammed the newspaper switchboard and protested outside its headquarters.

Some said it belittled the suffering endured by the woman who was attacked by the chimp, while others went as far as to accuse the cartoon of calling for President Obama's assassination.

That was vehemently repudiated by Mr Delonas, quoted by CNN, who also denied that the cartoon chimp represented Mr Obama.

'Opportunist'

Meanwhile, the civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton said his National Action Network would picket the New York headquarters of the newspaper at noon (1700 GMT) on Thursday.

He has also associated the cartoon with "historic racist attacks" which depict African-Americans as "synonymous with monkeys".

But Mr Allen dismissed Rev Sharpton as "nothing more than a publicity opportunist".

Mr Delonas has stirred controversy with previous cartoons, which have made fun of Heather Mills's amputated leg, compared gay people to sheep lovers, and depicted Muslims as terrorists.

WHAT'S BEING SAID ON THE INTERNET

Editorial writers and cartoonists certainly have a right to criticize the bill and its supporters. But this attempt at humor or satire or whatever else it was intended to be fell far short of the mark.

Gabe Pressman, MSNBC

The drawing, from famed cartoonist Sean Delonas, is rife with violent imagery and racial undertones.

The Huffington Post, which received thousands of comments.

What could be seen as silly humor if President George W Bush were in the White House has to be seen through the lens of America's racist past.

Roland S Martin, CNN

As an African American, I must admit the cartoon made my bile rise somewhat when I contemplated it. But political cartoonists generally aim for the topically provocative, not the politically correct. On that level, Delonas succeeded.

Frank James, The Swamp

It is worth noting that congressional Democrats wrote the bill, not Obama or anyone in the White House. If the conservative New York Post is calling Harry Reid, Max Baucus and Nancy Pelosi a bunch of monkeys, is that worth Sharpton getting worked up about?

The Guardian's Deadline USA Blog

I'm not one to shy away from calling people or things out for being racist. I just think that some small amount of thought has to go into something for it to actually be racist.

Dennis DiClaudio in Comedy Central's Indecision blog



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SEE ALSO
Chimp shot after mauling US woman
17 Feb 09 |  Americas
Obama signs $787bn stimulus plan
17 Feb 09 |  Business

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