John Legend urges NY Post boycott after offensive cartoon

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.

Dear Editor:

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.

John Legend

[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


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32 Responses to “John Legend urges NY Post boycott after offensive cartoon”

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  1. geronimo says:

    Good for Legend. Oh, and the NYP is not just racist. Sean Delonas, the NYP cartoonist, is an equal opps, sexist, bigoted, racist tool. Hope people support the NYP boycott.

    Google “ten masterpieces from sean delonas” to see some more of this scumbag’s idea of ‘funny’.

  2. Troy says:

    There are several problems with this critique. Most obviously, Obama didn’t write the “stimulus” bill. If anyone is being called a chimp, it is Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (hey, the hell that is 4th period government class has actually paid off a little bit).

    As has been said by all too many people: how can we get over racism when people continue to bitch and moan over such insignificant intricacies? I would honestly rather watch 10 Will Ferrell movies in a row, every day, for a whole month, than listen to Al Sharpton vociferate every chance his old, decrepit ass gets.

  3. anneesezz says:

    I totally agree. But then again, the Post is a right-wing rag, so the people buying that paper probably weren’t offended.

  4. Ursula says:

    I for one decided to boycott it even before any one told me. Good for you John to voice what we have all been thinking.

  5. Megan says:

    Wow his girlfriend is stunning.

  6. GInger says:

    Idiots. This had NOTHING to do with Obama. He did NOT write the Stimulus bill. Lets ask HIM if he is offended. I guess we can no longer use images of apes in any sort of humorous way without these IDIOTS assuming that we are mocking blacks. it is IDIOTS like this who continue to widen the chasm between the races in this country. So many people are just looking for something to be offended about. Where’s my passport?

  7. Lena says:

    Apparently some of you didn’t read what Legend wrote…he stated “Did it occur to you that this suggestion would imply a connection between President Barack Obama and the deranged chimpanzee” no where did he say that Obama wrote the stimulus package, but he is obviously connected to it. The post should of known better and it is offensive…as others have pointed out if our president was jewish and the cops were depicted shooting a rat would people find that offensive? When people see the cartoon they are not going to be thinking of Pelosi, a lot of people don’t even know who she is, people will think about Obama reagardless of who technically wrote it. I can’t understand why some people can’t see the issue with this cartoon

  8. GInger says:

    Funny the first thing I thought when I saw the cartoon is “they are lampooning the people who wrote the stimulus package as being as dumb as a chimp”.

  9. Lena says:

    well the cartoon stated “they’ll have to find SOMEONE else to write the next stimulus bill” If they were talking about more than one person they should have been more clear about it, and like i’ve said before your average everyday person doesn’t even know who Pelosi is. People are going to think of Obama when they look that the cartoon, 1st reason being because it says “SOMEONE” and the other being that when the news, media, etc… talk about the bill, it’s Obama’s name that is mentioned more in conjunction with with it than the people who actually wrote it. People are going to be offended plain and simple…the post should have been smarter than that. Just because some people can’t see the ignorance behind the cartoon doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and people shouldn’t be offended by it, or called idiots. Black people have been likened to apes , monkeys, etc.. for centuries, our new president is black and they depict two white cops shooting down what most people see as being a representation of Obama, again i really don’t get how people don’t see the ignorance in it and why some people would be offended by it.

  10. Maritza says:

    Wow what a beautiful couple! And YES that cartoon is racist, it obviously is satirizing Obama. I think someone will be out of a job soon in NY Post…

  11. GInger says:

    Because people these days just LOOK to be offended and guess what your president ISNT BLACK! He’s bi-racial!

  12. Lena says:

    well obabma said HIMSELF that he’s black, that’s HIS preference HIS choice, not mine. And please educate yourself on Black Americans whose families have been here for a few centuries… just about all of us are mixed with something other than just African blood, we are technically muti-racial (hence the array of colors, but most identify with what they look like and what society is going to see them as and Obama looks Black. I know people want to take that from us, but when you look at Obama you see a black man, may not be right, but for a lot of black people in this country that’s the way it is.

    Now back onto the TOPIC, i can’t explain anymore why people might find it offensive, or even in poor taste, at least that’s what i thought when i saw the cartoon…not a good move on the posts part. If you can’t see it, you are not well educated on Black history and that’s on you. Now i’ll go back to looking for something to be offeneded about.

  13. GInger says:

    Ursula, you decided to boycott it before anyone told you what? What the cartoon said? Again, another person just looking for something by which to get offended. Wonder why there is such a divide between the races in this country? Its because the minorities (of which you are no longer a minority) do not want to close the gap. To close the gap would make us all equal and then they wouldn’t have anything to bitch about or get preferential treatment for being different.

  14. Lena says:

    oh and if someone does not agree with the comments that i made earlier, please come back with educated, well informed responses . I would happily discuss this with people who will respectfully criticize my comments with a “lets look at it this way” attitude, not a people are looking for something to be offended about response, and if you do come with that comment make some points that are in relation to the subject to back it up

  15. Lena says:

    oh my gosh are you serious GInger, minorities don’t want to close the gap? we don’t want equal rights? you have got to be kidding me. Someone obviously fell asleep during the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT lecture…all of those people fighting to close the gap and fighting to be apart of the MAJORITY were just illusions. Your comment is so uneducated, so ignorant, so “they do it to themselves mentality”!!! Education is a must people! Now i know why you can’t see the offensiveness in the cartoon

  16. Michelle says:

    I think the cartoon is very racist and was in very poor taste, and I am a conservative republican. Lena, he may identify with being black and therefore is, but he IS biracial. No argument, just pointing out that his mother was white and that cannot be changed. I believe many people do try to close the gap, but many do not. For instance I work with an african american woman who decided to take MLK day off. We do not get MLK day as a holiday, and quite frankly, MLK Jr. did not do all of his work to fight for equal rights for African Americans to just take a day off. I respect and celebrate MLK as well, so why do some african american people believe that is THEIR right, and not everyone’s. It was done in a very much entitled way. Now I know this only represents HER POV, but there are as many black people that feel they are separate and possible entitled as White people that feel they are supreme. Now I am not one of them I am just pointing out that there are many people on both sides of the line that perpetuate stereotypes and keep the lines drawn. I hope for a day when that truly does fade a way, and even though I voted for McCain, I welcome a president who can bring hope to so many people and give African American people the chance to truly know they can do anything they put their minds to as many “white” children have been brought up thinking for ages.

  17. Michelle says:

    Oh, and I am not saying that African American children were not brought up to think they can do whatever they put their mind to, it is just hard to think that (I would think) when all you see is white men in power. So now they will KNOW they can achieve anything, not just believe it.

  18. javelin says:

    I can see why that cartoon would be offensive, but honestly, when I first saw it I thought it was a crack about how lazy Washington is, that they secretly outsource bill-writing to chimps.

  19. Can we all get along says:

    Michelle, I assume your employer gives you floating holidays and personal time off. If your co-worker wanted to use her time for MLK Day, why would that offend you? And if she simply took off sick on MLK Day, why would you assume anything other than that.

  20. Sijoi says:

    I think the cartoon was supposed to be about a 1000 Chimps at a 1000 Typewriters for a 1000 years could produce something worth while.

  21. Michelle says:

    She sent an e-mail the Friday before saying “Just to let everyone know I am taking of MLK Day in Celebration.” No we do not have floating holidays, and she did not have sick time at the time. It didn’t bother me, it is the principle that MLK worked hard and fought for EQUAL rights and for African Americans to have the same jobs with the same pay as those otherwise. I have to constantly hear her whine about money and she took it just because she wanted to. It was her pay her situation that is fine, but that is not what MLK was fighting for. Argue it if you want, there are plenty of people on both sides who perpetuate the issues.

  22. Can we all get along says:

    Michelle, I notice you didn’t mention whether your company gives personal days. Im not arguing with you, I just don’t see why there is a problem with her using her time as she see’s fit. She could have lied about it and just called off sick (without pay). Why does her action cause you to feel that she is perpetuating an issue. would you have a similiar problem with someone taking off for Veteran’s day? Would they be perpetuating an issue? Why do you take her actions to be a slap in the face to white people? Once again, i’m not arguing with you. In fact, judging by the tone of your comments, you appear to be a very decent person.

  23. Orangejulius says:

    That cartoon deeply offended this white woman. There should be some serious repercussions over it. I’m very glad to see this response by John Legend.

  24. Miranda says:

    Michelle, perhaps she felt like your work place should have given everyone the day off to honor Dr. King through community service and decided she would take her own personal day regardless if the company gave her pay or permission.

    You and your co-workers could have taken the day off as a personal day or to volunteer your day off in service, it was your choice not to and her choice to. It isn’t really an issue of equal rights here.

    I agree that too often people find things to become offended over and I find that many people who don’t understand what it’s like to experience racism look for ways to be offended in order to some how take the wind out of our experiences. It’s really unproductive when you call something that someone finds offensive or hurtful “whining”.

    We all have a right to react with offense, anger and hurt when something truly does this. Maybe this cartoon was or was not racist but when you look at American history, how so many people are still so unapologetic and racist, who accuse people who see racism in things as being villains or crybabies instead of trying to understand where they are coming from… well, is it any wonder people still might be sensitive? Is it any wonder people are still cynical about what is in other people’s hearts and see racism and cruelty where it might not be? Dismissive statements about how people are just LOOKING to be offended isn’t doing anyone any good. Why can’t we try to understand where each other is coming from instead of just saying “oh those blacks, just looking for racism all the time, such crybabies” – Seriously, how can you not see that this contributes to the entire problem of racism?

  25. Lena says:

    yes michelle he is biracial, but he identifies with being black, just like the millions of other blacks in this country who have european or other ancestry other than African, myself included. Like i said before some mixed people identify solely with what they look like and that’s their preference, Obama says he is black so what can’t people respect his preference? I find it disturbing that some people seem to want to take that pride away by always pointing out that “well technically Obama is half white”…because “technically” blacks in this country are mixed, regardless of how fair/dark complexion that they have. If no one knew about Obama’s mother and if he didn’t discuss it…he would be seen as a black man, if he was born on a plantation several hundred yrs ago to slave he would be treated as such, if he lived in south africa during the apartheid he would have been treated like all of the other south africans, not pushed aside and given a pass because his mother was white. see my point, you have to think about stuff like that, sad, but it’s true. it’s not right, but you are not going to find a lot of black people breaking down there racial makeup. I think that’s why he identifies with being black, because that’s how he would treated, but that’s just a guess/opinion.

    Now onto the topic of the black woman who took off on MLK day…i’m failing to see how you became offended that she took off, maybe she felt the need to take off and celebrate his accomplishments since your job doesn’t give that day off? maybe she wanted to go to a church service, do something in the community that day… I don’t really understand why you would be offended that she used her personal time to celebrate MLK day and like Miranda stated I don’t understand how that relates to equal rights.

  26. I Choose Me says:

    This is the first time I’m hearing about this so I went and googled the NY Post cartoon to see what ya’ll talking about and I gotta say although I’m not personally offended by it(I’m black) I definitely see how it could be considered racist.

    As for John Legend’s letter, it’s so beautifully worded that I literally clapped when I was done reading it. Such a charming, classy and talented man. I think I’m officially a fan.

  27. czarina says:

    In this case, I disagree with both sides of the issue. The cartoon was not intended to be about Obama (who did not write the stimulus package). On the other hand, obviously it was offensive enough for a lot of people to have felt that way.
    Did Sharpton make a huge, loud mountain out of a molehill?
    Of course he did. That’s what he does, and he’s good at it.
    Did the Post handle it’s reaction properly? No.
    All the Post had to do was explain where the cartoon came from (which they did), say they were sorry if people took it the wrong way (the Miley response) and perhaps offer to write an article both on the stimulus package (and who is responsible for it), and a look at how the image is tied to black history in such a negative way, so people could better understand why the association was made.
    This could have been an opportunity to educate people, instead of making it a divisive and reactionary.

  28. j. ferber says:

    John Legend nailed it. The pseudo-arguments that Obama is not really black or that he didn’t actually write the stimulus package are not to the point. My visceral reaction to the cartoon was shock and disbelief. And I’m a white woman. I found it racist enough for pre-Abolition America. You don’t have to be a genius to know that it’s inflammatory to use images of primates to represent Washington now that we have our first black president. There are many ways to show dissatisfaction with the stimulus package, but race-baiting is just not one of them.

  29. j. ferber says:

    Ginger, in one of your posts you refer to Obama as “your” president (I suppose in response to Lena, who is presumably African-American). Guess what? He’s your president, too (and all of ours). It’s time to put all differences aside and root for the guy at the helm. Lord knows we all had to do that for the sake of the country when the Supreme Court appointed George Bush to the presidency in 2000.

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  31. ebil says:

    well this is stupid why does anyone care?
    1) it wasent suggesting genocide or anything it was just a stupid little cartoon its not that bad get over it

    2) it doesent matter what obama did or didnt do he is a public figure an as a result will be made fun of no matter what

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