A New York Post cartoon that some have interpreted as comparing US President Barack Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police drew outrage on Wednesday from civil rights leaders and elected officials who said it echoed racist stereotypes of black Americans as monkeys.
The cartoon in Wednesday’s Post by Sean Delonas shows two police officers, one with a smoking gun, standing over the body of a bullet-riddled chimp.
The caption reads: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”
The cartoon refers to a chimpanzee named Travis who was killed on Monday by police in Stamford, Connecticut, after it mauled a friend of its owner.
Some critics called the cartoon racist and said it trivialized a tragedy in which a woman was disfigured and a beloved chimpanzee killed. Others said the cartoon suggests that Obama should be assassinated. Many urged a boycott of the Post and the companies that advertise in it.
“How could the Post let this cartoon pass as satire?” said Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. “To compare the nation’s first African-American commander in chief to a dead chimpanzee is nothing short of racist drivel.”
State Senator Eric Adams called it a “throwback to the days” when black men were lynched.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, an influential civil rights leader, called the cartoon “troubling at best, given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys.”
The cartoon set off a furious response against the Post. Its phones rang all day with angry callers. Protesters picketed the tabloid’s Manhattan offices, demanding an apology and a boycott and chanting “shut the Post down.”
Col Allan, editor-in-chief of the Post, defended the work.
“The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut,” Allan said in a statement. “It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.”
The cartoon drew hundreds of comments on the Internet, including at the liberal Huffington Post, where columnist Sam Stein wrote: “At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Most provocatively, it compares the president to a rabid chimp.”
US White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to comment.
“I have not seen the cartoon,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama returned to Washington from Arizona, where he announced his plan to deal with the foreclosure crisis. “But I don’t think it’s altogether newsworthy reading the New York Post.”