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Boston Herald, Jerry Holbert apologize for Obama Watermelon cartoon

Both Jerry Holbert and his newspaper are officially apologizing for the cartoon that ran on Wednesday featuring a man (presumably someone who had breached the White House) asking the president if he had tried watermelon flavored toothpaste. The cartoon has gone viral.

Jerry took to the Boston Herald’s radio podcast to explain how he ended up using the historically racist reference. He says that he was innocent or ignorant of the racist connotations. When pressed by an unbelieving interviewer, Jerry responded that he was thinking of a flavor he likes and that he just doesn’t think in those racist terms. He also admits that he goofed in that when his syndicate raised concerns, he didn’t raise those same concerns back to his paper editors.

The paper is standing by him.

“As Jerry Holbert discussed on Boston Herald Radio ? his cartoon satirizing the U.S. Secret Service breach at the White House has offended some people and to them we apologize. His choice of imagery was absolutely not meant to be hurtful. We stand by Jerry, who is a veteran cartoonist with the utmost integrity.”

I like that the paper is standing by their cartoonists. I do find it still unbelievable that Jerry was THAT ignorant of the racial history of the watermelon reference, but I’m willing to give him a pass. I had a similar experience on the college paper when the push to teach Ebonics was an issue for schools in California. My cartoon featured Mr. Rogers speaking in Ebonics with the trolley thinking, “there goes the neighborhood.” My editor recognized “there goes the neighborhood” as a phrase of disapproval of minorities moving into predominately white neighborhoods. I had to come up with a rewording at the last moment. So I get one can be ignorant of various references.

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