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Curious George publisher may sue over offensive anti-Obama shirts
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Friday May 16, 2008

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When word came out that a conservative Georgia tavern owner was selling t-shirts with the image of cartoon monkey Curious George over the slogan "Obama in '08," initial reactions focused on the racial slur.

"He can pretend he doesn't understand what the message of that T-shirt is, but he knows full well that's an offensive and demeaning stereotype used to insult African-Americans," stated Bill Nigut of the Anti-Defamation League.

Now fans of the Curious George books and cartoons are also expressing their outrage over the misuse of the image, and George's publisher is even considering a lawsuit.

"It's offensive," says Donna Friedman, owner of Curious George Books & Toys in Cambridge, MA. Friedman knew the books' co-author, Margaret Rey, and believes that "she would have been furious. ... She would have been a big Obama fan, for one thing. But in general, that sort of racist implication would have upset her."

Rey and her husband were German Jews who fled Paris on bicycles in 1940, just ahead of the Nazi advance, carrying the original Curious George manuscript with them.

Houghton Mifflin, which publishes Curious George, is now considering a lawsuit over the t-shirts. The publisher sued a punk bank called Furious George in 1998, objecting to their use of George's image on their albums.

However, variations on the Curious George name and image have previously been used in cartoons attacking George W. Bush and other political figures. The sellers of the t-shirts is claiming that his use of George also falls within his right of free speech.

This video is from WBZ Boston, broadcast May 15, 2008.

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