The NY Post ran a cartoon last week that many interpreted as a racial slur against President Obama. In a reference to the chimp mauling incident in nearby Stamford, CT, it showed two police officers standing over a dead chimp with the text “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” Some found the cartoon offensive because it seemed to liken Obama to a chimp and suggest he should be killed and others noted that it referenced the NYPD’s history of brutality against minorities, which was also racially insensitive to say the least.
Instead of apologizing properly and saying the cartoon should never have been run, the Post has issued two statements, both defiant and dismissive of critics:
The Post’s First Statement
The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.
[via Huffington Post]
The Post’s Second Statement (in part)
To those who were offended by the image, we apologize.
However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.
To them, no apology is due.
Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.
[From NY Post]
I guess we know that the Post doesn’t give a shit about offending readers by running racist cartoons. People are outraged. Many have picketed the Post’s offices and are calling for a boycott.
Singer John Legend has issued a very well worded open letter to the NY Post on his blog. He refuses to grant any interviews to the newspaper after the way they handled this incident and that he encourages his fellow entertainers to follow suit.
I’m trying to understand what possible motivation you may have had for publishing that vile cartoon depicting the shooting of the chimpanzee that went crazy. I guess you thought it would be funny to suggest that whomever was responsible for writing the Economic Recovery legislation must have the intelligence and judgment of a deranged, violent chimpanzee, and should be shot to protect the larger community. Really? Did it occur to you that this suggestion would imply a connection between President Barack Obama and the deranged chimpanzee? Did it occur to you that our President has been receiving death threats since early in his candidacy? Did it occur to you that blacks have historically been compared to various apes as a way of racist insult and mockery? Did you intend to invoke these painful themes when you printed the cartoon?
If that’s not what you intended, then it was stupid and willfully ignorant of you not to connect these easily connectable dots. If it is what you intended, then you obviously wanted to be grossly provocative, racist and offensive to the sensibilities of most reasonable Americans. Either way, you should not have printed this cartoon, and the fact that you did is truly reprehensible. I can’t imagine what possible justification you have for this. I’ve read your lame statement in response to the outrage you provoked. Shame on you for dodging the real issue and then using the letter as an opportunity to attack Rev. Sharpton. This is not about Rev. Sharpton. It’s about the cartoon being blatantly racist and offensive.
I believe in freedom of speech, and you have every right to print what you want. But freedom of speech still comes with responsibilities and consequences. You are responsible for printing this cartoon, and I hope you experience some real consequences for it. I’m personally boycotting your paper and won’t do any interviews with any of your reporters, and I encourage all of my colleagues in the entertainment business to do so as well. I implore your advertisers to seriously reconsider their business relationships with you as well.
You should print an apology in your paper acknowledging that this cartoon was ignorant, offensive and racist and should not have been printed.
I’m well aware of our country’s history of racism and violence, but I truly believe we are better than this filth. As we attempt to rise above our difficult past and look toward a better future, we don’t need the New York Post to resurrect the images of Jim Crow to deride the new administration and put black folks in our place. Please feel free to criticize and honestly evaluate our new President, but do so without the incendiary images and rhetoric.
[From John Legend's Blog]
I have a lot of respect for the straightforward way that Legend worded his response to the Rihanna and Chris Brown incident, and am so impressed with this statement. He clearly sums up the issue and says he doesn’t think people should tolerate that very offensive cartoon or the foul way the Post handled the controversy. We agree.
Legend really brought it last night during his Oscars performance with Slumdog Millionaire musician A R Rahman. He also convincingly sang Peter Gabriel’s Down To Earth and managed to pay homage to Gabriel without overdoing it. I think I have a new favorite musician.
Here are photos of Legend at the Oscars with his girlfriend, Chrissy Teigen. Credit: Fame