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New York Post issues qualified apology for chimp cartoon

Today’s issue of the New York Post contains an editorial with an apology for Wednesday’s cartoon depicting police shooting a monkey that many inferred as a racial slur against President Obama, but the apology’s author made it clear they were issuing the apology to everyone but those who have had “differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.”

Here is the full apology.

Wednesday’s Page Six cartoon – caricaturing Monday’s police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut – has created considerable controversy.

It shows two police officers standing over the chimp’s body: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” one officer says.

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.

Period.

But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; 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.

Community Comments

#1 Joseph Watts
February/20/2009
@ 7:39 am

Over at Huffingtonpost they had a video that made it seem like John Gibson made an outrageous connection between a story about a monkey escaped from a zoo and Eric Holder’s recent comment on American cowardice. The video “proved” that the monkey, described as having “a bright blue scrotum”, was soon after taken up by Gibson as an appropriate lead in to Eric Holder. Problem is, it never happened. It was video intentionally spliced and edited to defame Gibson (who I don’t care for) and Fox (which I don’t watch). Also, it was designed specifically to inflame. It was not merely a hoax, but an intentional attempt to paint Gibson as an unthinking bigot. Presumedly, it was done by a fan of Huffpo – which would make the producer of the video the racist for drawing his own connection between Holder and “a bright blue scrotum”. The point of the post, considering it has nothing to do with cartoons, is that there are many invested in creating racial strife and destroying people ideological different from them. This may not be the intent of many of the people offended by the chimp cartoon. But it almost certainly the intent of Sharpton. Unfortunately too, the uproar created over the chimp cartoon is almost a tacit acknowledgment that many susceptible people really can be made to see what perhaps is not there at all. It’s not that they merely see what they want to see. Rather, they don’t really know what they see until someone else tells them.

#2 Alan Gardner
February/20/2009
@ 7:53 am

Talk about a thread jacking even before a thread is started.

Please keep it focused.

#3 Joseph Watts
February/20/2009
@ 8:33 am

Alan,

You’re right and I apologize for the poor web etiquette. This site is your baby and I would completely understand removing my last post and refocusing this thread. No sarcasm intended. I like what you’re doing here and find the site an interesting one – something I don’t want to taint by constant complaining. Issues of race I take passionately, but I’ll try to tone it down. I voted for Obama hoping this sort of racial back and forth was on its way to being behind us. The Sharpton thing is frustrating those hopes. Respectfully. -jw

#4 Alan Gardner
February/20/2009
@ 9:07 am

You’re okay Joseph. I really tried to find the connection between the Post’s apology and Gibson/Holder comments and couldn’t. As with all controversies of this size, there are many aspects and spin off discussions, but as a blog solely devoted to the cartoon arts, I favor focused discussions.

Carry on!

#5 Oscar T
February/20/2009
@ 9:28 am

I constantly put my foot in my mouth. This means making a lot of apologies for innocent and sometimes careless remarks. Linking the monkey in the cartoon and the Black race or even our very popular president is ridiculous. If we spend all of our time contraining our thoughts due to excessive sensitivity or over sensitive people, then we might as well return back to the Dark Ages. I’m sure that Edgar Allan Poe did not have to apologize to widows for talking about black ravens. Is there a connection? Probably not. Still someone could have been offended. I’m 100% behind you. Sorry that you had to go through this.

#6 Ryan Biddulph
February/20/2009
@ 11:09 am

Hi Alan,

I feel that The Post did the right thing. Their cartoons are often very witty but this one went over the line. The intent was not racist as it was just a shot at Obama and the stimulus bill. Obviously this could have been interpreted to be racist. This is understandable. The Post did what it needed to in apologizing and moving on. I would have preferred is they had just issued a blanket apology. The editorial ego obtruded on that one. Just apologize and let go.

Ryan

#7 Joe Rank
February/20/2009
@ 11:34 am

Oh Brother! This is the classic NON-apology: “…to those who were offended by this image, we apologize”. IOW, it is at least partly YOUR fault for being too sensitive and mis-interpreting.

“Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon”.
Patent sophistry. This cartoon was meant to provoke and incite exactly the high-strung reaction it has recieved. Delonas’ feeble explanation that if anyone was parodied, it was Nancy Pelosi (????); indicates either how poorly thought-out the creative process is for this person to come up with that conflation…or he is simply being disengenuous.
Thia “apology” is as sincere as the editorial integrity of the NY Post.

#8 P.S. Mueller
February/20/2009
@ 4:10 pm

Disingenuously protested innocence abounds in this whole debate. To suggest overreaction to imagery that only the very willfully ignorant would find inoffensive is to defend ignorance itself. A lot of folks seem to be bending over backward a bit too far to shoehorn the whole “It just is what it is.” defense into the mix.

But I will defend the cartoon’s publication on free speech grounds alone. (Keep in mind that I believe the actual artist had little to do with putting it before the public–that was an editorial decision.)

We all go to our preferred filters–some to Huffpost, some to Drudge. Unbiased reporting is shoved to the side or converted into entertainment to be packaged and marketed by the broadcast media to help you conveniently pick and choose your own heavily data-mined reality from either Fox or Olbermann. And if you go no further than these sources, you, too, have rejected fact in favor of opinion.

By defending the right of the cartoon is question to exist, perhaps I guarantee my own right to point out the ghastly ignorance and bad taste of the “news” organization that presented us with it.

And if indeed the cartoon was truly intended as a racially divisive propaganda tool of the the right wing News Corp. outfit, which it most certainly is, you just have to accept the absolute fact that that this all they have left with which to distract their authoritarian readers from the ruinous legacy of their own coddled and sacrosanct private institutions.

Sooner or later they will blame starvation on food.

#9 Jim Lavery
February/20/2009
@ 5:32 pm

The Post should publish this one:

http://jlaverycartoons.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/post-monkey5.jpg

#10 Dave Stephens
February/20/2009
@ 9:46 pm

If racism is everywhere and hatred’s found in every jeer,
If all cartoons are checked for chimps and sanitized from plumped-up lips,
If Thought-Police employ their weight and label some things “BAD”, that’s great.

But wait.

Does Obama always “Rate”? Can’t he suck? Make a mistake?
If so, then it’s OK – slander him real hard, each day! Compare him to a dark BLACK stray!
Ignore the HUE and cry and say, “Obama! I don’t like your TONE!
Repent! Shut up! Be still! Go home!”

If chimpanzees can equal, “Dumb”, then use it, lots, on everyone.
Everyone who’s white and black and brown and blue, elected, fat.
Hey, skinny too (it could be true). But don’t give up your right to say
“Hey you chimp! You chump – Go WAY!”

#11 Tesor Frisch
February/21/2009
@ 4:54 pm

I think it is a shame that Americans have reacted so negatively about this cartoon. When I saw the cartoon I didn’t even relate it to Obama. Then the media took over and made it look evil. I thought we were in a country of free speech. This is a lame excuse for trouble. Should it be treated like some other recent cartoons depicted in other countries. Let’s remember “FREEDOM OF SPEECH”
God Bless America

#12 Joe Skobichevskii
February/21/2009
@ 5:48 pm

This is Post’s macaca moment. The are clearly in denial with this apology.

#13 Jenny Peckenpaugh
February/22/2009
@ 12:23 am

I support the First Amendment 100%. That said, just because there is a constitutionally protected right to draw, write, or say what you wish doesn’t mean it has to be published.

SELF-censorship is a good thing. In this case, either the cartoonist or the editors needed to label this cartoon “personal collection” and go back to the drawing board.

If the cartoonist was trying to convey that the stimulus was thrown-together mush by satirically using another current event, why not the PEANUT recall? You could put Pelosi and Reid and Obama and all the advisers mixing in the peanut plant with stuff falling out of the ceiling and put a caption “trust us: you don’t want to know what’s in here.” That example actually is MORE creative because you’re DRAWING 2 current news events together. In the Post cartoon, it’s one current event in the drawing and the punch line is the only [marginal] connection to the stimulus package.

More to the point, P.S. Mueller is correct. There is NO WAY that the Post did not know this cartoon is race baiting. I suspect the cartoonist knew it as well, but maybe he was drawing in his notebook rather than paying attention in every American History class he had. Mueller is correct in stating this is “imagery that only the very willfully ignorant would find inoffensive.” There is a LONG history in the US (150 or more years) of associating African Americans with monkeys/apes.

In addition, there is a LONG history in US political cartoons (150 or more years) of drawing monkeys/apes SPECIFICALLY to degrade African Americans OR anyone who dared attempt to advance the condition of black people in the US. Abraham Lincoln was commonly drawn as a monkey and referred to (not in a complimentary way) as a “n– lover.”

Oscar T: ” Linking the monkey in the cartoon and the Black race or even our very popular president is ridiculous”–no, given 150+ years of American history and hundreds of cartoons that have done EXACTLY THAT, and considering the source, it’s actually the only logical conclusion. Even if the cartoonist “put his foot in his mouth,” editors are supposed to catch that stuff–that’s why they get the big bucks.

I personally feel that it is irresponsible to cross the line from edgy and offensive to some (a good political cartoon) to deliberately using race baiting to antagonize your enemies. This particular cartoon is an especially bad example due to the fact that people connect the chimp to Obama (while he may not have “written” the stimulus it was put forth from his administration or under his name, and he has been the #1 public face as far as speeches and campaigning for it) and the chimp has several bullet holes and has just been killed by cops. Given the number of black men shot dead by NYPD alone (not to mention the BART shooting in California) and the unrest and rioting that ensued, you’d think even the Post would decide “let’s not go there.”

Worse, Obama is a walking target. He received Secret Service protection sooner than any presidential candidate because he had so many threats. They’ve already arrested people plotting to kill him and he’s only been President for a month. On election night itself, some dissatisfied racists went around attacking black people (and one white man beaten to a pulp who happened to be walking in a “black” neighborhood).
While the Post isn’t actually trying to incite violence, this cartoon comes awfully close to “yelling fire in a crowded theater.” The courts have ruled that kind of “speech” is NOT protected by the First Amendment. Even if it is, and even if you hate Obama, the man has two little girls. What does it say about the integrity of each individual who signed off on this cartoon–they KNEW that it would offend and there would be an outcry from prominent black leaders, and they KNEW there would be a backlash against that, and that some nuts from either side might riot or get violent.

The Post knew they were race baiting. They knew they were baiting their enemies. I’m sure they were sitting there saying “Reverend Al will go ballistic in 5….4…..3….”–if so, they ought to say it. Even if it was not “intended” racially, they KNEW it would be seen that way by a great many people.
With the Muhammad cartoon overseas, at least the papers who published it did so while being honest about its provocative nature. It’s not like they said “well the cartoon didn’t intend to connect Muslims and violence” or “we didn’t mean to offend anyone, if we did we’re sure sorry UNLESS you have attacked us in the past and in that case, we’re not sorry, so THERE [sticking tongues out]”

#14 Tom Birmingham
February/25/2009
@ 4:35 pm

Unbelievable all this over a cartoon. People percieve what they want too, and it’s usually their own insecurities, fears,and resentments that keep them pushing the prejudicial racist card.They are blinded from seeing the editorial part of what the cartoonist is trying to convey. So now comes the stereotypical blackmail that follows a blown out of proportion media blitz. Sharpton, Spike and all the other 1 million sigs & boycotts and of course more diversity. I know why Al does it because it’s press and thats how he fills his pockets. I backup the newspaper, editor, & cartoonist for publishing a good editorial cartoon. I wish you wouldn’t have apologized I think that goes against our freedom of speech. Bush was always caricaturized looking chimp like , but now it’s a problem. People need to concentrate their efforts on more important things. IT’S A CARTOON !!!

#15 Mike Peterson
February/25/2009
@ 6:01 pm

“People need to concentrate their efforts on more important things. IT?S A CARTOON !!!”

Yeah, cartoons are stupid and pointless, aren’t they? I think 99% of the people here agree with you, but some of the oversensitive types will surely object. There’s always somebody looking for a chance to be offended over something as useless as a cartoon.

#16 Wiley Miller
February/25/2009
@ 7:06 pm

“I backup the newspaper, editor, & cartoonist for publishing a good editorial cartoon.”

If it was a good editorial cartoon, then its message and intent would have readily apparent. Clearly, this was not the case. To be so tone deaf to this country’s long sordid history of racist imagery in cartoons, geared to keep minorities “in their place” is inexcusable today. The cartoonist and the editor derailed their own objective with this reach of trying to tie the news story of the chimp gone mad, having to be killed by the police, as a metaphor for the stimulus bill was just a bad idea.

“I wish you wouldn?t have apologized I think that goes against our freedom of speech.”

They should have recognized and acknowledged that it was a bad idea for a cartoon and apologize, unqualified, for their being so tone deaf to the racist and violent imagery. And just how does this “go against our freedom of speech”? Freedom of speech cuts both ways, you know. They had every right to print the cartoon, and people have right voice their disapproval of the cartoon.

#17 Carl Moore
February/26/2009
@ 12:56 am

“The Post knew they were race baiting.”

This is just nonsense.

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