Hundreds protest NY Post's dead chimp cartoon
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Thursday February 19, 2009

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Update: New York Post publishes 'apology'

It's rounds four and five in the dust-up over Wednesday's New York Post political cartoon that depicted what many believed to be President Obama as a dead monkey, shot down by police officers.

Thursday, hundreds of protesters, including Rev. Al Sharpton, descended on the newspaper's office with chants of "Shut the Post down!"

Later in the evening, the paper issued something of an apology, but specifically called out "opportunists" as undeserving of one.

"It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill," the paper wrote, in an editorial titled "That Cartoon."

"...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."

The cartoon's Wednesday morning publication drew quick criticism from the civil rights leader, who made a clear link between the cartoon and the long history of racist comparisons of black people to monkeys. And instead of going on the defensive, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Post hit back, attacking Rev. Sharpton as "nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

By Wednesday night, Sharpton was sitting next to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, continuing to press the Post over the cartoon and accusing the editor of "trying to insult the public" with his defense. Thursday afternoon, Sharpton leaned further on the paper, bringing about 200 people to the Post's offices.

"I'm outraged that they'd have the audacity to use this cartoon and not think that it would have an impact for people," said New York State NAACP President Hazel Dukes, reported New York's WCBS. "How in the world do you have the audacity?"

"It's clear that you are out of touch with this entire country," said State Senator Eric Adams, in a report by NY1. "Americans went to the polls to elect a man of honor from its country, not a monkey, not a chimpanzee. This is not funny. This is not a cartoon. This is disgusting."

The cartoon, which ran on page 12 of the tabloid, showed a policeman killing a monkey, a reference to an incident in Connecticut Monday when an officer shot dead a chimpanzee that had seriously injured a woman.

In the drawing, another police officer comments: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

"Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African-American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?" Sharpton asked in a Wednesday afternoon statement.

"The cartoon is a very clear parody of a current news event," wrote the Post's editor, "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."

The cartoon's author, Sean Delonas, commented: "... It's about the economic stimulus bill. If you're going to make that about anybody, it would be Pelosi, which it's not."

In round four of the public dust-up, Sharpton responded to the Post while speaking with MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann. Sharpton took offense to the paper's excuse of its cartoon.

"Given the history of this cartoon page, there's been other race-tinged stuff," he said. "Who authored the bill? Who went around the country selling the bill? It was not the speaker of the house, it was the president, who is the first African-American president.

"Who is the personification of this bill? It was Obama's bill. So, now they're trying to insult the public. And I might say, many whites, as well as blacks, have been outraged. We've been overwhelmed with calls from many white citizens who say, 'I agree with you. This is outrageous. ... I think people want to get past this kind of behavior."

During President Obama's 2008 campaign, publishing firm Houghton Mifflin, which owns Curious George, a monkey character from a popular line of children's books, threatened a lawsuit against a group circulating a t-shirt with an image of the primate and the slogan "Obama in 08" underneath.

"It's offensive," said 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."

This video is from NY1, broadcast Feb. 19, 2009.

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This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Feb. 18, 2009.

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With wire reports.

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